The freight elevator to the studio buzzes to a halt, and the doors rumble open as Tyler Eifert, modern-day gladiator of the NFL steps out. At 6’5″ and 250 lbs you might imagine that the ground shakes as he walks. Today, however, he’s gingerly hobbling. He’s sporting a giant plastic walking boot on one foot.
Tyler’s heroics in the 2015 season gave him a Cincinnati Bengals franchise record 11 touchdowns – the most in a single season by a TE. It was enough to earn him his first Pro Bowl selection – and solidify the love of fantasy football fanatics across the country. The walking boot is proof of his tenure at the Pro Bowl game, still recovering from recent surgery to repair his right ankle.
It’s not the first time injuries have been a setback for him. Many of us remember the gruesome photo of his dislocated elbow in the first game of the 2014 season. What sidelined him for an entire year may have been a career defining stall-out for many young players. Fortunately, Eifert came back to have the best season by a Bengals TE ever.
Today though, we aren’t really here to talk football. While football may well define his identity to most, it’s only one aspect of what makes up the rest of the man. The intensity and focus that built him into become one of the top players at his position speaks to his deeper psyche.
When ESPN uses the term “All-American,” it’s meaning is completely different than when we say it at Article. Our store, and the products with which we often resonate are cut from the same ethics and determination that flow through a rising star in the league. Born of dedication to craft, timeless quality, and uncommon good – we seek out the real deal, the genuine article.
It’s why we are so drawn to Eifert. Here’s the story of kid who grew up in the middle of Indiana – who was pretty good at high school football but under-ranked in his recruiting – taking a chance to play at Notre Dame while turning down offers from several schools that would’ve seemingly resulted in an easier path to immediate playing time. The same kid who went on to win the Mackey Award for the best collegiate TE and set records professionally. We have a hunch the walking boot doesn’t stand a chance.
You’ve always risen to the top of the heap despite doubts and setbacks. Tell me about what’s going through your mind when you train – or even rehab.
I think the thing for me that’s always helped me when things go wrong – I never let myself get too down. I try to maintain that even keel, level headed, mindset. I ended up at the highest level going to the pro-bowl last year, but then ended up having to have ankle surgery because of the last couple minutes of the game. I always just keep moving forward.
Where do you think that mindset came from for you? A lot of people – not just NFL guys – have a hard time approaching life that way.
I think it all started in my upbringing. Mostly my dad. He brought me up on the ideals of working hard — regardless of whether you’re the star and scoring all the points. Keep cool and do your part.
Good stuff. What about Manhood in general? What does that word mean to you?
To take charge, never back down, always try to figure things out, never give up, and never be scared of anything.
Whats the off-season like for you?
Besides staying in shape during the week, I take the first 3 weeks off after the season. I really don’t like having a set schedule during the offseason. I like being able to take off and go wherever I can. I like to hunt & travel – The only thing I have planned is a trip to South Africa in March.
Yeah you went to New Zealand last offseason right? What was the craziest thing to happen on that trip?
New Zealand was great but not crazy. I didn’t encounter any wild predators on that one. The craziest thing was one morning I got up in a tree stand and just as the sun was coming up and I started to wake up, tree huge turkeys took off about 10 feet above me – it sounded like a plane was flying over me.
You recently went turkey hunting with a group of veteran and active-duty special operators (aka Navy Seal-style badasses) as part of the SOWW Program. Talk about that experience.
Its a release for those guys. They are either active-duty soldiers or guys that are retired. These are guys who are used to being in the heat of combat, and for some of these guys it might be hard to come back and live a normal life. You know, its not normal to be riding around in tanks and everything else a soldier faces. So its a way for them to get out in the woods and relax little bit. I got hooked up with a guy named Mike – he helped me get my new Labrador Retriever – who asked if I’d come out and hang with the guys. I never miss a chance to get out there.
What’s your dog’s name?
Lab’s name is Jameson
Whats your favorite piece of hunting gear that you own?
Sitka Gear. Most hunting gear comes in your more traditional camo patterns. Sitka does a lot of digital-type patterns which make you look like a blur to most animals/deer. It’s a modern take on hunting gear.
Aside from hunting gear, most people probably have the wrong idea about how professional athletes dress. You and I joked about a few guys that wear bedazzled Gucci tuxedos, but you clearly don’t fit that mold. Tell me what drives your style choices.
Haha. I don’t have the best style. Thats why I’m working with you guys! I think that quality definitely matters, and its great to buy products made in the USA. I like to support the homeland.
What’s the dress-code while you’re traveling with the team?
Suited up, but you can sway off of that. You can wear jeans, sport coat, and a white shirt. It’s important not to look like a slob.
Whiskey or beer? Whats your go-to?
It depends on what I’m getting into – out on the lake its all beers – at home its my go to bourbon – Basil Hayden.
Photography: Aaron Conway
Hair: Josh Wagner (@waz227) highfivesalon.com
Style: Article Menswear