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Packers Profile: Robert Tonyan

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Packers Profile: Robert Tonyan

The Tape

  • Position: Tight End
  • Age: 23
  • Height: 6’ 5”
  • Weight: 237 pounds
  • 40-yard Dash: 4.58 seconds
  • Vertical Jump: 38”
  • Broad Jump: 10’ 5”
  • Bench Press: 16 reps at 225 pounds

The Roots

Robert Tonyan’s story starts in McHenry, Illinois, a city on the very northwest outreaches of the Chicago suburbs.  Tonyan attended McHenry East High School where he lettered in both football and basketball during his prep career.  On the gridiron, he starred as the quarterback of his team by setting career school records of 5,000 passing yards and passing for 40 touchdowns. 

Coming out of high school, Tonyan had moderate interest from colleges to play quarterback.  The schools that showed interest were North Dakota, Air Force, Bowling Green, Indiana State and Illinois.  After considering both North Dakota and Indiana State, Tonyan opted to stay closer to home and become a Sycamore at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

After redshirting his first season in 2012 and then struggling at times during his redshirt freshman year as a quarterback, the decision was made for Tonyan to switch to wide receiver during his sophomore year with the Indiana State program.  The switch to receiver turned out to be a wise decision for both the young athlete and the Sycamore program when Tonyan blasted onto the scene with 54 catches for 747 yards and four touchdowns during his sophomore campaign.  He followed that year up with 40 catches, 601 yards and six touchdowns during his junior year.  For his senior year at Indiana State, Tonyan caught a total of 56 passes for 699 yards and a school single-season record of 10 receiving touchdowns.  After his senior season, Tonyan would finish third all-time on the Sycamores receiving list with 2,047 yards, second all-time in receptions with 150 and first all-time in touchdown receptions with 20. 

Following his senior season, Tonyan realized that a switch to tight end would be his best shot to make his dreams of playing in the NFL come true.  At this point entering the 2017 NFL Draft, hybrid tight ends that could play inline, in the slot and split wide were becoming more popular in the league.  His athletic build and size were also better suited to be a tight end in the NFL.  The only problem for Tonyan was that he would have to gain a significant amount of weight being only 220 pounds on his six foot, five-inch frame.  In preparation for the draft, Tonyan beefed himself up on a 5,000 to 6,000 calorie per day diet. 

Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, Tonyan participated in the Northwestern University Pro Day where scouts witnessed his pure athletic talent, receiving skills and newfound inline blocking techniques that he had been working on prior to the draft.

NFL Career

As the 2017 draft came and passed, where Tonyan was potentially projected to be a late-round draft selection, Tonyan didn’t end up getting his name called at the podium.  Near the end of the draft, Jim Caldwell and the Detroit Lions had been in contact with Tonyan saying they would be interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent should he not be selected.   And that is exactly what happened when the Lions signed him on May 12th.

Tonyan entered the Lions training camp as a long shot to make the team.  After getting little opportunity through training camp and the preseason, where he only caught two passes for 21 yards, the Lions released the rookie tight end during the final roster cutdowns prior to the regular season.  He did not receive an offer to join their practice squad.

After exiting the league for most of the 2017 regular season, the Packers signed Tonyan to their practice squad in early December when a spot was opened up with the activation of Michael Clark to the 53-man roster.  Following the 2017 season, the Packers signed Tonyan to a reserve/future contract in January.

The Future

With a futures contract signed, Tonyan will once again get his shot in an NFL training camp with the Packers this coming summer.  By bringing him in near the end of the season to join the practice squad and ensuring one more chance in training camp this year, the Packers front office obviously sees some potential in the young tight end. 

Tonyan’s physical abilities are quite obvious with his large frame, speed and leaping ability.  From his draft notes, Tonyan was noted as being a very good athlete with a great second gear while running routes.  In college, he showed the ability to separate on crossing routes and vertical routes.  He was also noted as having great highlight reel catching ability and excelling at the back-shoulder pass in the red zone.  This highlight video shows some of the great skills that he could bring to the team. 

One knock on Tonyan entering the NFL was his lack of experience catching footballs and running routes with only having played wide receiver for three years.  The other obvious knock on the young tight end was the ability to block as an inline tight end with no experience lining up in a three-point stance on the line of scrimmage.

While certainly raw and a project for the Packers, Tonyan’s talent and skill set are undeniable.  Watching his college highlight reel as a wide receiver brings visions of Aaron Rodgers back-shoulder touchdown passes.  But while the young tight end has many great physical traits, Tonyan’s future success in the NFL and with the Packers organization ultimately relies heavily on the 2018 coaching staff.  His physical gifts got him to this point, now the staff of the Packers needs to harness that talent into an NFL caliber tight end.  If coaches Mike McCarthy, Joe Philbin and Brian Angelichio can figure out ways to utilize his abilities by being creative, look for Tonyan to turn some heads in training camp and preseason this summer.


Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (11) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

CheesyTex's picture

Appears he could be another "jumbo" option to play in the slot or split wide, but not a TE as he is labeled.

But it would be nice if he and Clark would both pan out as they have size advantage in the slot or wide.

Something for us to dream about during the long offseason...

Handsback's picture

Had no idea that a guy like this was on the roster. Sounds like he may have issues with blocking....but I can imagine they love his playmaker ability.

dobber's picture

Go win a job.

TXCHEESE's picture

I wonder if he's added any weight since these measurements were recorded. Looks like he has great hands, but of course, they aren't going to put drops on the highlight reel. Hopefully can add to the competition in camp.

John Kirk's picture

Cool last name. Conjures Tarzan. Odds are nil he is much for us.

The thing that caught my eye the most from this piece is the mention of McHenry, Illinois. That's where they make McHenry Metals woods (and wedges) which are among my favorites for the golfers out there.

carlos's picture

Great leaping ability and nice hands. Just judging by the video clip, but he looks like he could line up at wide receiver. Hybrid type maybe. Hopefully the extra weight doesn’t slow him down much. Would be nice to see him pan out. Practice squad even.

Community Guy's picture

thanks for the piece.

4thand1's picture

That's what i said to my wife.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

But does he block better or worse than Jimmy Graham?

croatpackfan's picture


andretoure's picture

Not very famous but promising tight end. I also became interested in football only in college when I trained with a local team and eventually became their player. At that time, I paid more attention to training and games, so sometimes I took samples like this for my homework, as I didn’t always have enough time for this.

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