The Washington Football Team added more depth to its offensive line by signing center Tyler Larsen on March 18.
Larsen, who entered the NFL as a college free agent in 2014, has appeared in 68 games and made 18 starts. He spent four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, three of which were under head coach Ron Rivera. Here are five things to know about the newest member of Washington's offensive line.
1. He played on both sides of the ball in high school.
Many linemen have to choose whether they want to play on offense or defense in high school. Larsen was not one of those players; he decided to play both ways, and the Jordan High School Beetdiggers benefited from it.
Larsen dominated all four years for the Beetdiggers, particularly on defense with 96 tackles, 16 sacks, 12 fumble recoveries and four touchdowns. All four of his scores and half of his fumble recoveries came during his senior year when he recorded 26 tackles and six sacks, which resulted in first-team all-state and all-region honors in Utah.
The Beetdiggers went to the playoffs in each of Larsen's four seasons with a record of 29-16 in that span. After starting 1-3 in Larsen's senior year, the Beetdiggers went 5-1 for the rest of the regular season, which earned them a spot in the 5A playoffs. It staved off the Spanish Fork Dons in the first round but were eliminated the following week in a rematch with the Bingham Miners.
Larsen was recruited as an offensive lineman, according to his ESPN high school recruiting page, and viewed as a two-star athlete by Rivals.com. His scouting report described him as a player who had room for improvement but played hard and "has good velocity and accuracy when snapping from the shotgun formation." Larsen ultimately signed with Utah State at the end of his senior season.
2. His wife was an accomplished college softball player and gamer.
Larsen and his wife Samantha, who also attended Utah State and played softball, have been married for more than seven years now, and the combination of an injury and Call of Duty started their relationship.
"She had foot surgery, so she couldn't really drive anywhere and [former teammate] Bryce [Walker] was taking care of her," Larsen told the Herald Journal in 2013. "I happened to show up at the house and she asked me if I had an Xbox. I said, 'Yeah.' She said, 'Do you have Call of Duty?' I said, 'Yeah.'
"So, she started coming over all the time and we started playing Call of Duty. Basically, that's what sealed the deal."
Larsen joked that he did not like playing with his friends when she was playing because she was so much better, and she wasn't bad on the softball field, either. She batted .427 for Arcadia High School in California before joining the Aggies squad in 2011. She became the starting catcher as a sophomore and caught 10 runners stealing. In her junior year, she threw out a team-high 16 runners and had 170 putouts.
Samantha, a health science major, finished her career as one of Utah State's four captains before graduating in 2014.
3. He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy.
Larsen was a four-year starter and received several accolades for his performances, including first-team All-WAC honors during his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons. But perhaps his best season came in 2013 when vying for the title of best center in the country.
The Rimington Trophy is an annual award given to the best center in college football, and based on how Larsen played in 2013, it was easy to see why he was a finalist. He had 50.0 knockdowns that season, which helped earn him a performance grade of 91%, according to the team's metrics.
One of his best performances came in a 52-20 beatdown against Air Force, according to former Utah State head coach Matt Wells. Larsen helped the Aggies' offense put up 577 yards, 217 of which came on the ground.
"He totally dominated up front. But, Tyler's leadership, Tyler's work ethic and his character is second to none," Wells told the Herald Journal. "It's a standard bearer for all future Aggie offensive linemen."
In addition to another all-conference honor, he was also a second-team All-American selection by USA Today, making him just the 12th player in school history to receive the distinction. He finished his career ranked first all-time in starts (52) and appearances (52).
The Rimington Trophy ultimately went to Florida State's Bryan Storks that year, but there is no doubt Larsen put up a deserving season as well.
4. He has improved his pass blocking the past two seasons.
Larsen bounced around the league for a couple of seasons before finding a more permanent home. First he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins in 2014, only to be released in August of that year. Then Washington signed him in February of 2015 and subsequently released him before the regular season. That's when he joined Rivera's Carolina Panthers in 2016 and spent the next four years in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Eventually, Larsen became one of the team's more reliable offensive linemen with 15 starts in two seasons, which earned him a two-year extension before the 2018 campaign. Larsen has not received much action recently (just 35 total snaps since 2019), but he has played well whenever called upon.
Larsen only appeared in four games during the 2019 season but had a pass-blocking grade of 79.9, which at the time was his best performance, with zero pressures or sacks on 14 pass plays. He received even fewer opportunities in 2020 but still made the most of them with a career-high 81.5 pass-blocking grade.
Larsen was a solid pass-blocker before he was relieved of his starting duties. He did not allow a sack in four of his five seasons and has only given up six quarterback hits for his career. He has only committed four penalties in 68 games.
Chase Roullier is Washington's starting center, but Larsen has been a quality backup for several years. He also has some experience at guard, meaning he can fill in for those spots as well, if needed.
5. He adds more depth to the offensive line.
Larsen still adds value to the offensive line, though. For starters, he knows about Rivera's culture and how to play to those standards. He also has experience working with offensive line coach John Matsko, so he can help some of the younger players get acclimated to the schemes quicker.
Rivera likes to fill his roster with players who he knows can handle themselves when given the opportunity. Larsen did that with the Panthers during Rivera's tenure with the team, so if Washington finds itself in need of a replacement guard or center in 2021, Rivera can say with confidence Larsen can help the team.