USA Patriots’ Tyson Leners thought his senior season would end on a sour note after he suffered an ankle injury against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in week three.
The 6’ 5”, 240 lbs. running back didn’t let the injury stop him from working his way back onto the starting roster again, and becoming the Morrison County Record’s 2022 Football Player of the Year.
The injury occurred in the first quarter against BBE when Leners was running in for a score. A defender attempted a last second ankle tackle and managed to get just enough of Leners’ ankle to cause the injury.
“It was very puffy and black and blue,” Leners said. “It was just really uncomfortable and tough to go through.”
As a running back, Leners relies more on his physicality to make plays due to his massive stature, bulling and plowing over defenders. But he’s also quick and shifty for being as big and strong as he is. The injury put him out for the following three to four weeks, coming back for a few plays in week seven against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Leners was distraught after the injury, saying he wanted to be out there on the field and help the team win those games, as they were 1-3 to start the season.
“I wanted to be back playing because it’s the game I love,” Leners said. “There’s nothing better than playing football.
“(Some) ways I recovered was icing a lot and I went to physical therapy,” Leners said. “Aaron Gapinksi, he set me aside at practices to work on footwork drills and that was really beneficial. All the coaches helped chime in and make me a better player, as well as the other players.”
With Leners absent, the whole offense had to go through a change. His presence allowed the Patriots to primarily a run it down the throat of their opponents. But without Leners, Head Coach Jay Loven knew he had to change things up.
“We realized that we’d have to go to a different setup, so we went into a wildcat with Max (Lange) running the ball more as a QB,” Loven said. “We would throw Max back there at tailback for a few games, so it changed our mindset. We had to take away one of our other weapons to play another spot.”
The Patriots went 3-1 after starting 1-3, but Loven said they needed all of their star players back if they were to make a run at the championship.
Despite the injury robbing him of a full season, Leners still put together a terrific senior campaign. In the seven games he started, including the BBE game in which he only played the first quarter, he ran for 909 yards, and seven TDs, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
A running back is only as good as his blockers, and Leners made sure to give a ton of credit to the big boys paving the way for him up front.
“One of the huge reasons why I had so many rushing yards these last few years is because we had absolutely great linemen,” Leners said. “They are great at blocking, and just overall great players. They knew how to work hard every single day. They would come to practice. They definitely had the mindset of wanting to win and go to state.”
Another unsung hero Leners wanted to make sure got his credit was fullback and No. 2 running back Nick Kedrowski. When Leners was running the ball, he said Kedrowski was always leading the way for him and making sure the holes were open.
“Nick was an outstanding fullback and he just hit guys so hard,” Leners said. “He definitely knew how to block.”
Despite Leners being an imposing runner, he still had his fair share of doubters. When he was younger,, he said he was often told that he wouldn’t be a good runner because he was too tall.
“Since I was young, I wanted the adrenaline of running the ball, and I achieved these goals by working hard on the field and in the classroom,” Leners said. “My advice for younger athletes is that you can do anything you set your mind to. You just have to work hard for what you want and stay true to yourself.”
Not only did Leners prove his doubters wrong by being a beast on the field, he also took his studies seriously, having one of the best grades on the team.
“Tyson’s not only a great athlete, but also a great student, which is what we want our kids to be,” Loven said.
Leners plans to go into the medical field and is focused on getting his Bachelor’s in Science and Nursing. After college, he hopes to get a job at a hospital and eventually become a traveling nurse.