by Wade Denniston, USU athletic media relations
LOGAN, Utah - When the 2013 national signing day came and went, Tonny Lindsey Jr. was left on the outside looking in.
It was a devastating feeling not being offered a scholarship to continue playing football at the next level.
“It was tough,” Lindsey said. “I cried on signing day; it was that tough. I knew that the first team that took a chance on me and offered me, they would get something special.”
Lindsey earned California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) all-Moore League first-team honors as a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif. He led the Pac-5 Division in rushing with 1,429 yards on 191 carries (7.5 ypc/142.9 ypg) and 13 touchdowns, to go along with 17 receptions for 179 yards and two more scores.
Despite those numbers, and despite being named his team’s Offensive MVP, Lindsey had no suitors.
But that just added fuel to his fire and he made his way to Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif.
“Cerritos was just down the street from me,” said the native of Long Beach. “My brother was the offensive line coach there and he also went there. I played one season and then was fortunate enough to get an offer after the first season.”
That offer came from none other than Utah State. Lindsey did not have to think twice about accepting it.
“Utah State was my first and only offer,” Lindsey said. “A lot of other teams weren’t loyal and I felt like I was getting lied to. Utah State was the only school to bring me in and take a chance on me.”
Lindsey was a late signee to the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class and ended up redshirting his first season at Utah State.
What has motivated Lindsey to become the type of person and player he is today?
“Everything,” he said. “From not being recruited out of high school and really, not being recruited out of junior college. That motivates me to be the best I can be. All the schools that passed up on me, I take pride in that every Saturday and go out and do what I have to do.”
As a redshirt-sophomore in 2015, Lindsey appeared in nine games, making his first career start in a 31-27 victory over Nevada on Nov. 21. He finished the year with 93 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Lindsey became the featured back in the Aggies’ offense last season after starter Devante Mays, who is now in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, went down with an injury. He played in all 12 games and started 10 of them. Lindsey led the team in rushing with 763 yards and six touchdowns on 148 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. No. 4 also caught 17 passes for 123 yards, including a long of 41 yards at Wyoming.
“To be a complete back, you have to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and block and be able to run the ball, so the more ways we can do that the more we can help the offense,” Lindsey said of the running back group as a whole.
His best game of the 2016 campaign came against Nevada on Nov. 19, when he rushed for a career-high 168 yards, including a career-long 68-yard touchdown run, on 21 carries.
“He is a slasher, a one-cut-and-go guy,” Utah State head coach Matt Wells said of Lindsey. “He has great speed in the open field.”
With a solid junior season behind him, Lindsey was poised to have an even bigger senior season in 2017, especially after spending countless hours in the weight room and eating healthy. However, in Utah State’s season opener at Wisconsin, the son of Tonny and Xenia Lindsey suffered a shoulder injury that has left him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
“Tonny Lindsey had shoulder surgery and he is, unfortunately, out for the season,” Wells said. “That is a tough thing for a young man who worked really hard in the offseason to put himself in a good position to have a good senior year. I hate that for Tonny.”
Before suffering his injury against the Badgers, who were ranked No. 9 at the time, Lindsey had carried the ball six times for 28 yards (4.7 yards per carry), to go along with two catches for 16 yards and four kickoff returns for 75 yards.
“Once he gets back and he’s functional – right now, he’s not functional – he’ll be around us and he’ll help us coach,” said Utah State special teams coordinator/running backs coach Mark Tommerdahl. “He’s a captain and he’s got a really good presence with this team, and is well-respected. We all feel bad for what happened and it’s unfortunate, but he is a first-class young man.”
For his career, Lindsey has rushed for 884 yards and six touchdowns on 166 carries. He has also caught 21 passes for 141 yards and returned six kickoffs for 96 yards.
Prior to the start of this season, Lindsey was named to the 2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List, which is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back. He was one of 51 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) running backs named to the preseason watch list, including one of just two players from the Mountain West.
Along with being named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List, Lindsey was a Mountain West preseason third-team selection by College Sports Madness and a fourth-team selection by Athlon Sports.
Lindsey has always donned the No. 4 since his days of ruling the flag football field. He even wears a gold chain around his neck with a No. 4 pendant.
“My first year ever playing football, it was flag football and I was 5 years old,” Lindsey said. “I wore that number and I’m the fourth child, so that’s the number I’ve been wearing all my life.”
Besides playing football at Woodrow Wilson HS, Lindsey was a sprinter on the Bruins’ track & field team. He ran both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and was a member of the 4x100-meter relay team.
When he is not focused on football and schoolwork, Lindsey enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and roommates, and playing video games.
“I also watch a lot of film and try to eat right to keep my body right,” said Lindsey, who also noted he is a “low-key jokester.”
Lindsey, who is majoring in interdisciplinary studies, is set to graduate this December.
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