If this list was ranking the Top 50 most dedicated MAC athletes, Tyler Loos would come in at No. 1. As it is, the 6-foot-5, 302-pound left tackle from Northern Illinois shows up at No. 8 in our Top 50 MAC players.
It's been a very challenging three years of serious leg injuries for the 2010 Sterling High School graduate. Redshirted in 2010, Loos got off to a tough in start in 2011 as he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in training camp. He missed the entire season.
He returned from that injury in 2012 to play in the first 11 games before breaking his leg against Toledo. He earned Second Team All-MAC honors but could not participate in NIU's Orange Bowl loss to Florida State.
Loos got off to a good start in 2013 by starting the first nine games. But once again, his season came to an end when he suffered a broken left leg at UMass.
Listed all together, his leg injuries sound like a parachuting accident: a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee, a broken right tibia and fibula in his right, as well as a broken left fibula.
I'd say that 2014 is the year Loos should finally catch a break, instead of sustaining one.
When Loos is healthy, he is the premier left tackle in the MAC. He anchored the left side for 20 of Jordan Lynch's 24 regular season record-breaking games over the last two years. While Jordan Lynch was a special and amazing offensive talent, no player can put up the video game-like numbers he did without a great offensive line.
NIU's offensive line ranked number five nationally by NCAA.com in "sacks against" for 2013. They gave up an average of .79 sacks a game. In the nine games Loos played, that number dropped to .56 sacks a game. That's five sacks allowed in nine games. And of those five sacks, three came from cornerbacks.
Not only was Loos and the NIU offensive line protecting the quarterback, they also didn't allow the running backs to be tackled in the backfield. NCAA.com ranked them number two nationally in "tackles for loss allowed".
In addition, the NIU rushing offensive was number seven nationally at 297 yards a game, according to NCAA.com's "rushing offense" rankings.
NIU was the only team to rank in the top ten in all three of these categories.
The amazing thing about Loos being the best left tackle in the MAC isn't just about him overcoming his injuries. It's also the lack of an offseason to train. While his teammates and peers get to do drills, lift weights, and work on technique, Loos has been doing rehabilitation.
Football injuries are for the most part random and independent of previous events. Yet I can't help but feel Loos is somehow "due" to remain healthy. And a healthy, conditioned and prepared Loos is going to be a great thing to watch - in all 12 regular season games.