Blair Tushaus thought he was done playing football — twice.
Arizona’s walk-on tight end played three seasons at BYU, and was the Cougars’ starting center in 2012 as a redshirt sophomore. He played out that season and then decided that was enough.
“It was a weird experience,” Tushaus said. “I was grateful for it. At the end of the day, I just felt better leaving. They’re LDS, I’m not, and I just wanted a normal college experience.”
Tushaus talked to a couple of Division II schools about continuing his football career, but nothing came of it.
So the Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep product moved back to his hometown and moved on from football.
He enrolled at ASU as a student, but decided not to try out for the football team. He took classes, went to football games as a fan and hung out with his friends.
“It’s weird being a spectator,” Tushaus said. “I’d just be like, ‘Wow, my career is done.’”
The 6-foot-2-inch Tushaus, who weighed as much as 290 pounds when he patrolled the offensive line for BYU, got down to 225 pounds. There was no reason to keep the extra weight, he said; his career was over.
But late in the fall semester, Tushaus started working out with members of the Sun Devils. Arizona State coaches were interested in adding him to the roster as a walk-on, but there was a catch — they wanted him to play center. If Tushaus was going to play again, he wanted to do it as a tight end.
“They wanted me to be a center, but gaining that weight again, I just didn’t want to do it,” Tushaus said. “It was a lot of wear on my knees.”
So for the second time in less than a year, Tushaus thought his football career was over.
But after getting back in the weight room and getting in football shape, Tushaus realized how much he missed the game.
With one year of eligibility remaining, he wanted to find a new home. His mom, Marianne, informed Tushaus about the NCAA rule that allows transfers to play right away if they’ve graduated.
“She’s the smart one in our family,” Tushaus said smiling.
In order to graduate by the end of the 2013-14 school year, Tushaus had to take 29 credit hours in the spring at ASU. He did it, and was officially eligible to play at another program.
He had a previous relationship with UA tight ends coach Charlie Ragle, the former coach at Scottsdale Chaparral, and called him about walking on.
Ragle and Rich Rodriguez hosted Tushaus on an unofficial visit and offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on.
“To have this opportunity, I took it because I missed it,” Tushaus said. “That year off really gave me the perspective that I needed to play again, whether it’s special teams or scout team, I said ‘let’s do it.’”
He moved to Tucson in the summer and began his transition to tight end. He decided to pursue a masters degree in international security at the UA — since it isn’t offered at ASU; part of the NCAA rule — and play football for one more year.
Eventually, Tushaus wants to coach high school football and work for his dad’s financial services company. But this year, he’d like to be a meaningful contributor the Wildcats. It looks like that will happen.
Tight end Josh Kern battled an injury earlier in camp, opening up reps for Tushaus and freshman Trevor Wood. Tushaus has run with the first-team in practice, and will undoubtedly see the field in some role.
“He’s going to play some tight end, he’s going to play some special teams — almost all of them,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a tough, smart guy. I’m glad he’s here.”
So is Tushaus, who said he expects his role at tight end to be more of a blocker than a receiver.
“So many things happened the right way; it’s remarkable,” Tushaus said. “I think the guys in the locker room — I missed that the most. Two days ago, it hit me when we were doing something ... after practice. We were all having fun, and it hit me, ‘I’m having fun again.’
“It baffles me every day to think, ‘Here I was a starter at center for BYU, and now I’m getting some pretty good reps at Arizona.’ ”