PENDLETON — Tylis Larkin will be watching next week’s NFL Draft and pondering what it might feel like to suit up for a team at the pinnacle of the sport.
A 2017 study commissioned by the NCAA suggests his dream is among the longest of long shots. According to the study, only .08 percent of senior high school football players will one day be drafted by an NFL team. That’s just eight players in 10,000.
But if Larkin has demonstrated anything since graduating from Pendleton Heights High School in 2010, it’s that long odds don’t deter him.
“What keeps me going is knowing how close I keep getting,” Larkin said. “Just how close I am now, where I came from, how long I’ve been doing it. Giving up now would be just a waste of the last nine years.”
Larkin recently signed with the Indianapolis Enforcers, an American Arena League team that plays its home games in Carmel. The hope is that he’ll make enough of an impact as a running back to catch the attention of an NFL scout or two and secure a tryout or training camp invite in the next couple seasons.
“I think he does have the ability to get to that level,” said Enforcers coach K.C. Carter. “It’ll depend on his work ethic. He’s a very hard worker. He pays attention to the small details, and that’s important when you have to learn an offense in a short time frame.”
Larkin’s hoped-for pathway up the professional football ladder — from indoor football to the NFL — is one that more than 100 players have traveled before. Most notably, quarterback Kurt Warner went from the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League to a career that included two league MVP awards, a Super Bowl victory with the St. Louis Rams and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017. But Larkin realizes that a career in the NFL — especially as a running back — not only rarely pans out, but also has a narrow window of opportunity. The average running back spends just 3.3 seasons in the league, according to the NFL Players Association.
“Running backs in the NFL have a short shelf life,” Larkin said. “My timeline, I feel like I need to be there within three years. (The AAL) is a big league, one of three or four big arena leagues, so if I perform well with the new film that we have, I should be able to get a look.”
In the meantime, Larkin has a family to support. He and his wife, Megan, both hold full-time jobs as production technicians at Roche, a medical diagnostics company with a facility in Fishers. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Amara, and is expecting their second child, a son, in the next month.
“You’ve got to be happy with everything you do,” Larkin said. “I’m happy at home, happy playing football. I just got promoted at work, I’m happy. So as long as my wife’s happy, we can continue to do this.”
Megan agreed, adding that Tylis’ pursuit of his dream is something she hopes Amara can learn from as she grows up.
“He’s a good role model for our daughter,” Megan said. “It’s great that he’s showing kids how to chase their dreams and just believe they can do whatever they want to do.”
Tylis has stayed close to the Pendleton Heights football program over the last decade, volunteering as a coach and imparting his message of perseverance to a new generation of players. It’s a job that he doesn’t see as a job.
“It’s about helping the youth, helping the kids,” Tylis said. “That’s how I grew up. I was fortunate enough to have people around Pendleton who put their hand down to help me out, and I want to do the same for everyone else, for the kids around me.”
Tylis admits he’s had many reasons to be discouraged in his pursuit of an NFL career — even to the point of considering giving up football altogether. But he believes he “blossomed late,” and says his desire to test himself against the best continues to fuel his passion for the sport.
“I want to reach my potential,” he said. “I want to get there.”
Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.