Utah State linebacker Kyler Fackrell will put the cap on a fantastic college football career Tuesday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium.
Six years ago, he probably would have expected this to be the end of his career altogether.
But Fackrell’s development with the Aggies has turned him into one of the top NFL prospects in the Mountain West. Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN ranks him as the No. 6 outside linebacker prospect in the 2016 class, and Fackrell is slated to play in the Senior Bowl.
“I don’t think that I necessarily thought coming here that I was NFL bound,” Fackrell said. “I did have kind of a fire to prove myself and to work hard and to really maximize my potential, whatever that meant.”
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Utah State was the only Football Bowl Subdivision school to offer him a scholarship out of Mesa, Ariz. Then-Utah State assistant Bill Busch knew one of Fackrell’s high school coaches, which caused the Aggies to take a closer look at the versatile high school athlete. Fackrell’s dad, Darrell, is a former Utah State defensive end, and his mom, Lori, is a former Aggies cheerleader.
Fackrell played quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and safety in high school. He moved from quarterback when the team had a talented young player coming into that position and became the standout receiver.
Now 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds with terrific athleticism, Boise State’s coaches compared Fackrell to their former first-round pick Shea McClellin, who is a starting linebacker for the Bears.
“I definitely have put on quite a bit of weight (since high school),” Fackrell said. “I don’t know that anything else has changed. Maybe I’ve gained a little bit of confidence as I’ve gotten older, gotten kind of comfortable.”
Fackrell was first-team All-WAC and a Freshman All-American in 2012 and second-team All-Mountain West in 2013.
He was named to the All-Mountain West first team this year after missing all but one game last season with a knee injury sustained in the season opener. He has accumulated 76 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and a national-best five fumble recoveries in 2015.
In the Aggies’ October upset of Boise State, Fackrell recorded 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. In their November win against Nevada to clinch a bowl game, he recovered a fumble in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
“The first thing about him is he’s a tremendous young man who cares about football an awful lot,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “He’s a football junkie, watches a ton of tape, prepares very, very well. He’s got a lot of God-given ability. You add all those things up and you have a player that’s special. ... He’ll play a lot on Sundays for the next several years.”
Fackrell has helped carry on a recent tradition of linebacker excellence at Utah State. Former Aggie Bobby Wagner is an All-Pro with the Seattle Seahawks, Zach Vigil is a rookie contributor with the Miami Dolphins and junior Nick Vigil is the Mountain West’s leading tackler.
Utah State has placed five linebackers on the All-Mountain West first team in the past three seasons, awards won by four different players.
“It’s been awesome,” Fackrell said. “Those guys have been great players and, more importantly, great teammates. It’s been really just a great opportunity for me and a great honor to play with some of the guys I’ve played with.”
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
▪ Who: Utah State (6-6) vs. Akron (7-5)
▪ When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday
▪ Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
▪ TV: ESPN
▪ Series: First meeting
▪ Line: Utah State by 6 1/2
▪ Tickets: $20-$90, at ticketmaster.com; $24 for FitOne Family Field Day (pre-game NFL combine- type event at 10:30 a.m., lunch and game ticket)