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A Closer Look: Ryan Otterson
SAN DIEGO – Ryan Otterson was glad to talk.
The undrafted offensive tackle hadn’t been able to do much else. As OTAs finished, a strained MCL relegated him to studying his playbook. It was hard not to get a little stir-crazy when there wasn’t much he could do all day.
It’s no wonder he’s attempted to devour the playbook.
“I don’t have it down 100 percent, but I’ve taken the time to get my assignments down and try to learn guard and even some center stuff, too, just in case,” he said. “Because you never know. Especially at this level.”
Otterson’s generation grew up during an era that poured toxic venom on America’s attention span. The internet became a fixture in homes. Cell phones and computers went mainstream. Gaming systems evolved, though he obsessed about Super Mario 3 on Regular Nintendo.
His dad loved baseball, so he played, but tackle football didn’t exist in Albert Lea, Minn., and the alternative didn’t suit him. He had entertainment options to spare.
“It was all flag. I was like, ‘Flag’s boring!’” Otterson said. “I was too into video games back then. Oh, god, too many hours.”
He started tackle football as he approached middle school, fresh from a growth spurt that gave him a healthy size advantage. But the football team in the town of 18,000 people hadn’t finished with a winning season in 30 years.
So his family packed up and moved to Denver, where he enrolled at 5A Thornton High School to get showcased on fields resting in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Just as his Colorado experience concluded, Wyoming called.
“I didn’t have a Division I offer until two days before signing day,” Otterson said. “So I got called up, ‘Hey, we’re going to offer you.’ It was pretty crazy.”
He started at left tackle for three years, adapting to life in Laramie, Wyo., with the Cowboys. At 6-foot-5, 291, he’s at least two inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than most of the other tackles on the team.
“My feet are one of the things that have always been good. That and my speed,” Otterson said. “I’m able to react a little bit quicker and move my feet a little better than some guys.
“I’m a little undersized. I have to use what attributes I have to the best of my ability.”
He played every position on the line during rookie orientation, shifting from right tackle to right guard and center when Jeff Hansen left for his graduation. He snapped for three days, first time in his life.
“(But) I feel natural at the tackle position,” he said. “You need a little more girth to be on the inside, but that can come with a little training and a little eating.”