David Traxler, who ate and ate and ate for nearly three years, never could get over the hump - the barrier of being a 300-pounder in a league of 300-plus offensive linemen.
Instead of continuing the fight to reach that goal, he analyzed his situation and opted to go the other direction.
"I am a tight end now - totally. I have been practicing there since we came back from Christmas break," said Traxler, smiling. "I like it. It's fun learning a new position and trying to find a way to help the team all I can."
Traxler has never played tight end before, but that has not dampened his spirits. If anything, it's revived them.
"No matter what I did, I couldn't get over about 285 pounds when I was at tackle," he explained. "I felt like I was doing OK, but something was missing. I just wasn't going to hit my goal of 300 pounds, and you need that type of bulk in this league."
After Trax's talk with Coach O, he started peeling off the weight, which was easier to do than he thought it would be.
"I am at 260 pounds right now and it feels more natural. Before, I was eating everything I could get my hands on, doing anything to gain weight, and the heaviest I could get was 285-290," David noted. "Now, at 260, the weight seems more natural."
With the 25-pound weight loss has come better movement.
"I worked on my speed over the Christmas break and I feel a lot quicker and faster at 260," Traxler, a rising junior, said. "We haven't maxed out in the weight room yet, but as far as I can tell, I'm just as strong as I was at 285. I think my numbers will be good when we max in a couple of weeks."
So, how does he break down his chances at tight end? IOt's a mixed bag for Traxler right now.
"The older guys are helping me out a lot in terms of running routes and things I have never done. I feel great about the blocking schemes and my ability in that area," he continued. "The blocking part is second nature to me because I have been doing that my whole career as an OL.
"The other part - getting involved in the passing game - has not been as simple. I'm a big target, but I have to prove to the coaches and the quarterbacks that I can catch the ball and that I understand coverages and how to run routes and get open."
Traxler's confidence in his hands is pretty high.
"We've been doing some voluntary 7-on-7 passing drills and I feel pretty comfortable. I've caught the balls thrown to me. I feel I have fairly natural hands, but catching it is not all of the equation," said David. "I have to learn how to handle it after I catch it - how to protect it, how to carry it properly to avoid fumbling on contact, little things."
Another difference is recognizing coverages. As an OL, all he had to worry about was the front seven and who he had to block. At TE, all 11 defenders come into the thinking process.
"Now, I have to worry about cover 2, cover 3, man coverages, the whole gamut," he stated. "It's fun learning something new. I think I'm bright enough to get it down, but it will take some time. Some of it is kind of foreign to me, but I've caught on pretty quickly to this point."
Traxler said he can't wait to get spring training started so he can size up his progress in "real" football.
"I'm excited. I think I bring size and blocking ability to the position and hopefully I can get the rest of it down in spring," he ended.
When spring training opens up, Traxler will be competing with rising seniors Robert Lane and Robert Hough, Cecil Frison, who has been moved from DL, and Billy Tapp, who has been moved from QB this spring.
Also, the Rebels will have new, or different, coaches at the tight end slot - Tony Hughes, who was with the secondary last season, and Graduate Assistant Brad Villavaso, who has been assigned to help both Hughes and OL Coach Art Kehoe.
David Traxler update
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