Tyler Allgeier is the Cougars’ top rusher, but he almost left BYU after the 2019 season

The former walk-on is now on the Doak Walker watchlist as one of the nation’s top college running backs

Tyler Allgeier got the job at Walmart because he didn’t want a handout.

In the summer of 2018, the BYU walk-on took a break from pushing around tacklers to push around shopping carts at the big box store on University Parkway in Provo.

“I just tried to make some money there so mom doesn’t have to support me and send me money,” Allgeier said.

He didn’t have a car that summer. Instead, the incoming freshman used Uber to get to work.

“I Ubered a lot, and I hated it,” Allgeier said. “I just don’t like asking people for stuff if I can do it myself. I just tried not to ask guys for rides. I’d literally spend money just so I didn’t have to bother anyone.”

Allgeier would prefer to work for something rather than have it handed to him. So, after BYU’s trip to the Hawaii Bowl in 2019, when Allgeier walked into Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake’s office to ask for something, he really needed it.

If he hadn’t gotten it, he wouldn’t be BYU’s top running back now.

Mother knows best

Watching Allgeier on the field — breaking tackles, protecting the ball and just powering toward the end zone — it feels as if he were born to play football, that he was made for exactly this.

But it didn’t start out that way.

In fact, there was a point when he was a kid that he hated football and quit. His mother listened to her son, but gave him some advice: take a year off from football and, if he still didn’t want to play, he could walk away from the game.

From a very young age, Ester Allgeier, Tyler’s mom, knew her son was going to be athletic. So, she signed him up for just about every sport starting at age 3.

Football: check. Soccer: check. Baseball: check.

“Every sport that there was, that we were able to put him in, he was in,” Ester Allgeier said.

Right away, there was one sport that was obviously not a good fit for little Allgeier: baseball. Instead of waiting for the action, Allgeier would sit around picking grass. Baseball was too boring for him.

At age 7, Tyler Allgeier’s father signed up his son for tackle football. Ester Allgeier was against the decision at first because her estranged partner hadn’t consulted her on the decision.

It seemed the situation also rubbed Allgeier the wrong way.

Because Allgeier didn’t have a good relationship with his father, it tainted his love for football. He hated the new tackle sport and asked his mother if he could quit.

Mother knew best. Ester Allgeier knew how much her son had previously enjoyed football. So, she came up with a compromise. Her son could quit football for one year, but he would give it another try after that. If he still didn’t want to continue with football, she would respect his decision, but she just didn’t want her son to make a hasty decision based on a strained relationship.

“When I signed him back up, it’s like he never left,” Ester Allgeier said. “He had a gift for football.”

(Courtesy photo) Ester Allgeier, center, has helped her son, BYU running back Tyler Allgeier, become one of the Cougars' top offensive weapons.

When it was time for high school sports, Tyler knew he would have to choose between soccer and football. After his freshman year, he chose to continue with football.

But that decision, and eventual college success, wouldn’t have been possible without the help from his mother.

“She would literally do anything she can to provide for her kids, or she would try her best,” Tyler Allgeier said. “If she doesn’t have it, just be patient.”

Coming to Provo

Allgeier went on to become the leading rusher for Kaiser High School in Fontana, Calif., where he rushed for 2,740 yards on 231 carries and scored 29 touchdowns his senior season.

The running back had received two Division I offers, as well as being a preferred walk-on for BYU and an offer for a DII program in Oklahoma. But when Tyler Allgeier made his official visit with his mom, he knew Provo was where he wanted to play.

“Being in the locker room, just felt like a brotherhood — and I actually felt it,” Tyler Allgeier said. “It’s a religious school. I’m not LDS, but I actually felt the spirit and I thought it was the right choice for me to come here.”

As a preferred walk-on, the Allgeier family was left trying to figure out how to pay for Tyler’s tuition — a price that is twice the cost for students who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) BYU running back Tyler Allgeier (25) carries the ball against Texas State last season in Provo. Allgeier is on the Doak Walker watchlist this year with the top running backs from around the nation.

As a single parent of two kids, Ester Allgeier raised her children in a house with her parents as a way to help make ends meet. But Ester never shied away from providing for her son. She sent Tyler to Provo having told her oldest child that she’d take care of everything. That included tuition, apartment rentals, food and more.

However, Tyler didn’t want to put all of that financial burden on his mother, so he took a job at Walmart as a cart attendant shortly after moving to Provo for the summer.

“Having my mom pay for stuff, I kinda held off, tried not to go anywhere. Obviously money’s tight and [I] tried not to ask mom for money,” Allgeier said. “I worked at the neighborhood one [on University Parkway], pushing carts until about halfway through fall camp and then I quit because obviously I was focused on football.”

Pushing carts at Walmart was the first job Allgeier ever had and it brought on a sense of what true adulthood must feel like he said. After his first season, in 2018, Allgeier worked camps and continued to earn a bit of money so his mother wouldn’t have to pay for every little thing.

“She would always do anything to support me,” Allgeier said.

Proving himself at BYU

It didn’t come easy, but the hard work eventually paid off.

After redshirting the first year, Allgeier went on to work on the scout team. Then in 2019, Allgeier was on the special teams, but due to a pair of grad transfers (Ty’son Williams and Emmanuel Esukpa) that came in, he moved down to fifth on the running back depth chart.

Down that far on the depth chart, Allgeier wasn’t being utilized, so assistant coach Ed Lamb ended up using the redshirt freshman as a linebacker.

“After that [I started] producing on the field wherever I can, because like coach Lamb always said ‘we want the best players on the field,’” Allgeier said. “I took that to heart. I would try to be on the field as much as possible. I’m trying to get that scholarship, obviously, [so] I’m going to work my butt off to do that.”

Toward the end of the 2019 season, due to a barrage of injuries to the running back room, Allgeier eventually got back on the field as a ball carrier.

But after the 2019 Hawaii Bowl, Allgeier came to a conclusion: He would look to transfer to a program that could offer a scholarship. He didn’t want to continue to financially burden his mother. (Ester Allgeier, at this moment, is still about $30,000 in debt from loans she took out to pay for her son to attend BYU.)

“If I wasn’t going to get a scholarship there, then I don’t know what else I could have done,” Allgeier said.

When Tyler spoke to his mother about the situation, she encouraged her son to talk to the coaching staff before following through on his decision. Allgeier spoke to head coach Kalani Sitake, who informed his player that he was at the top of the list of next players to be moved to scholarship. The staff was just waiting for some of the players to graduate to open up some spots.

Sure enough, in early 2020, Allgeier got moved to scholarship status.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Ester Allgeier said of the situation.

So how did Allgeier prove to coaches that his scholarship wouldn’t go to waste? The Fontana native went on to rush for 1,130 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2020. Allgeier became the 16th BYU running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards, and the first to do so since Jamaal Williams in 2016.

Allgeier also ended the 2020 season ranked seventh in yards per carry (7.53), 10th in rushing touchdowns (13) and eighth in total yards rushing (1,130).

Looking forward

By now, opponents and fans alike are well aware of what Allgeier is capable of on the field. He, along with Lopini Katoa, are expected to be a 1-2 punch in the running back position. Allgeier is the Cougars’ top returning running back, having rushed for 1,130 yards and 13 touchdowns in the 2020 season, and is on multiple preseason watchlists heading into the 2021 season.

Allgeier will continue to ignore the chatter. But he is going to continue to put in the work to have another successful season.

He may not say it, but his mother would like to see her son leave a legacy like Williams’ — who is from the same hometown. Maybe, Allgeier could break William’s record. After all, thanks to last year’s blanket waiver from the NCAA, Allgeier is still listed as a redshirt sophomore.

BYU running back Tyler Allgeier (25) carries the ball as Louisiana Tech defensive back Cedric Woods (30) pursues during the second half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

“Tyler and I were talking and I just told him ‘you have to beat your goal from last year,’” Ester Allgeier said. “So, if you rushed 1,000 yards, you have to beat that record this year. We just put little goals and hopefully he continues to hit those goals every game. That’s one thing I wanted to see, I want him to be kind of what Jamaal Williams [was]. Jamaal Williams came from Fontana. He made his name.”

The way to accomplish those lofty goals will be to continue to improve, and Sitake believes there is always room for improvement.

The head coach would like to see Allgeier improve his game by looking to get better at blocking or catching the ball. But where Sitake would like to see his top rusher improve is as a leader.

Sitake said he noticed Allgeier start to take on a leadership role since the 2020 season ended, but would like more.

“That’s not his deal, but he’s been getting out of his comfort zone,” Sitake said. “He’s learning how to become a leader and the players are really taking to him as a leader — they love following him. And it’s not really that difficult when you’re a guy that just does everything right and works extremely hard. We just need him to keep mentoring these young guys along and being one of the main leaders on our team. And so far he’s doing a good job.”

What will this season hold?

“Whatever happens, happens,” Allgeier said. “It’s obviously cool — the watchlists and [more], but I’m just going to ignore it and do what I can.”

Whatever happens, happens.

And whatever happens, Allgeier will have earned.