Osseo’s Bridgeport Tusler accounted for 23 touchdowns this season: 16 on runs, three on catches and four more by other means.
Osseo's Bridgeport Tusler donated blood for the first time last Friday.
He postponed this promise to his girlfriend until after football season, appropriate timing given how much Tusler left of himself on the field. As the Orioles' pillar for success, he played running back and defensive back and returned kicks and punts with equal aplomb.
Teammates admired his dedication. Opposing coaches lauded his competitiveness. Doctors? Well, Tusler can explain.
"I have pretty big veins, I guess, so the doctors were loving me," Tusler said. "They were like, 'Your veins are amazing.'"
So was his senior season.
Tusler rushed for 1,173 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 18 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. He added four additional touchdowns through passing (one), punt returns (two) and on one of his eight interceptions. For everything he did, under and away from the lights, Tusler is the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
"[Osseo basketball coach Tim] Theisen and I consider him the best two-sport athlete in the state," Orioles football coach Derrin Lamker said. Tusler helped Osseo win the Class 4A basketball title as a junior. "It's a luxury for a coach when your best player is your hardest worker."
Running back. Slot receiver. Cornerback. Free safety. Return man. Tusler played them all. As Osseo went to a hurry-up offense in a playoff loss to Eden Prairie, Tusler showed savvy amid the confusion by lining up at tight end to avoid an illegal formation penalty.
"I actually got a pancake block on that play," Tusler said. "It was probably the highlight of my year."
Taking a cue from former basketball and football teammate DJ Hebert -- "I don't think he ever lost in a killer [conditioning drill] during practice," Tusler said -- the player called by many shortened versions of his name asserted himself in myriad ways. He stayed after practice to run extra routes. On game days, he bused lunch trays in the cafeteria. And he joined leadership groups at school, casting aside former thought patterns of worrying about his own needs.
"It's not about me," said Tusler, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average. "In high school, people say leave your mark, and I think your mark is what you do for others. I think all of that tied into football. You can be a good player but you have to be a good person first. That's the No. 1 thing I wanted to show the underclassmen."
Admittedly no orator, Tusler displays vocal leadership behind the scenes. Use of an ineligible player forced Osseo to forfeits its first two victories. When approached by teammates, Tusler offered counsel.
"I told them, 'You can't control it so don't get into it,'" Tusler said. "You let it affect you and you have the worst season ever. It's like my dad says, 'Let the blood flow.'"
A keen perspective is important as Tusler ponders his college options. Measuring 5-11, 200 pounds and clocked at a less-than-stellar 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Tusler could find his dream of playing for Jerry Kill and the University of Minnesota out of reach.
"I would love to play for the Gophers, hands down," Tusler said. "But I wouldn't want to commit there just because it's the Gophers and then not play. It's not that I need to play; if I can earn a spot, I'll earn a spot. I don't care about points or highlights, I just want to play and contribute. I want to be like [former Timberwolves role player] Mark Madsen, but I want to maybe play a little bit more."
Tusler, whose first love is football, has drawn North Dakota's interest and plans to visit South Dakota in December.
"If my Division I offers stopped now, I'd probably play Division II and try to play both football and basketball," Tusler said. "Or maybe Division III and try to play both.
"I can't imagine walking off the field after the Eden Prairie game and hanging my helmet up for the last time."