TOMMY DOYLE: Path to the NFL DRaft
Standing at 6’8” and weighing in at 326 pounds, Miami of Ohio offensive tackle Tommy Doyle looks the part of an NFL offensive lineman. As he heads to the 2021 NFL Draft aiming to be just the eighth Redhawks player to be drafted since Ben Roethlisberger, his prototypical appearance hides the hard work that’s taken the kid from the epicentre of ice hockey to the brink of the NFL.
“I came into college in 2016 as a skinny kid and no-one expected shit out of me. Now, I’m here where I am today, and I credit a lot of that to my work ethic and to the type of person that I am.”
Cleats Over Skates
It could have easily been a different journey for Tommy Doyle. Growing up in Edina, Minnesota, there was more chance of pursuing a career in the NHL than the NFL. Edina has a history of producing ice hockey talent, and he excelled on the rink even into his high school days. Despite his talent and love for the rink, family helped fuel a passion for the football field.
“I grew up in Edina, Minnesota where hockey was a main sport, in that city and in that state. My high school is like a pipeline of sending guys out to play college hockey. So that was definitely one of my first passions was playing hockey. But, I had always played football as well. My Dad was always our youth football coach. So, I’d always had that passion for football.”
Having a father for a football coach helped develop a love and tactical understanding of the game. His dad came from an athletic background having played baseball at the University of Minnesota and has always been a role model for Tommy Doyle. Additionally, another family influence contributed to nurturing that as a youngster and developing him as a fan of the game.
“Growing up I was a Packers fan. My grandpa was a season ticket holder – still is – to Lambeau Field. Some of my earliest memories are of going there and watching NFL games there. That was something that was so cool to see, the fanbase and tradition of that organisation. That definitely sparked some of my dreams to want to play football and take it further in college.”
It’s not hard to see how that exposure to the Green Bay Packers influenced his early football career. He lists his early footballing inspirations as Packers legend Clay Matthews as well as former Wisconsin Badger J.J. Watt. Although he heads to the 2021 NFL Draft as an offensive lineman, Tommy Doyle was a productive linebacker and defensive end at Edina, leading the team in sacks as a senior in 2015.
“You’ve gotta love playing defense. You get to run around and make plays and get to tackle people. It’s a pretty fun job. Especially being a defensive end, you’re trying to sack the quarterback and then if the play goes the other way you’re running trying to tackle someone. I always loved that aspect of playing defense. Making plays, getting sacks, hitting people. When I transferred to offensive line in college I realised you can still hit people pretty hard as an offensive lineman.”
Tommy Doyle was a three-star recruit coming out of Edina. Despite playing defense his entire high school career, he did not receive attention as a defensive prospect. Deemed as being too slow to play defensive end in college, but clearly possessing the ideal offensive line frame, coaches recruited him as an offensive tackle. The 16th ranked player in Minnesota attracted multiple small school offers before deciding to become a Miami Redhawk.
“It was definitely interesting because I was getting a lot of offers to play offensive lineman, and I’d played mostly defensive end in high school. I was battling in my head as to whether to try and continue to be a defensive end or whether I wanted to buy in to the vision of being an offensive tackle. Had a decent amount of offers from the MAC, and I took a few visits. Ended up visiting Miami of Ohio and I hit it off with Coach Barnett – my offensive line coach – and Coach Martin, the head coach. I felt like I could have a really good relationship with those guys and I really trusted them that they could develop me into what I’ve become today.”
Having been inspired by defensive players growing up in Minnesota, Tommy Doyle found new role models as he transitioned to the offensive tackle position. One name in particular stands out as a pro-comparison.
“There’s a bunch of guys you can watch, model your game after and learn certain things as an offensive tackle. I think I’m a similar to Mike McGlinchey in some ways. He’s a bigger, taller, leaner tackle like myself. It’s pretty cool to watch some of the guys who do it at a high level and how everyone has a little different strategy and technique that they use. You can pull and learn from all those guys.”
As a player who had played on the defensive side of the ball his entire football career, learning was a huge part of his early years at Miami. Arriving in 2016 he took a redshirt year which would help him build the foundations of his game.
“Having that redshirt year was huge in my development. It gave me another year to grow, to get bigger, to get stronger. It was my first year playing offensive line, so it gave me a whole entire year to develop and pick up the play book and the fundamentals of being an offensive lineman. I think that redshirt year was definitely beneficial.”
Getting Bigger & Achieving Goals
The redshirt year allowed him to grow in more ways than one. Having described himself as a “skinny kid” he had to bulk up to meet not only the rigours of college football but of an entirely different position. Tommy Doyle heads to the 2021 NFL Draft at 326 pounds. However, he arrived in Miami at considerably less than that. It’s a transformation that he credits the Redhawks staff with helping him achieve.
“I think coming in as a freshman I was a pretty skinny dude. I was 6’7.5” and maybe like 260-265 pounds. From a freshman to my senior year, I put on a lot of weight and strength. I give a lot of credit to Coach Luke Kelly — our strength coach — for pushing me every day in the weight room. It’s a lot of discipline and commitment to what I’m eating, how hard I’m working, and paying attention to those details to get my body to where it is today.”
The hard work and attention to detail paid dividends for both player and team. After missing time with injury in 2017, Tommy Doyle emerged as the Redhawks starting right tackle in 2018 before switching to left tackle in 2019. He earned First Team All-MAC honours, while Miami earned their first MAC Championship since 2010.
“It was an awesome year. When I committed to Miami of Ohio, talking with Coach Martin and Coach Barnett, we had the goal of turning that program around and winning a MAC Championship. To be able to do that in my senior year, with my incoming class, was a special moment.”
Although 2019 was his fourth year with the program, having redshirted in 2016 meant he could come back for another year in 2020. In what turned out to be the most disrupted college football season in recent history, Tommy Doyle initially opted out to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. However, when the MAC conference announced a return to fall football, he came back to play in three games.
“It’s been a crazy year. It’s impacted a lot of people. But I think it gives you a little bit of an opportunity to step back and take a look at things, digest things, and slow down a little bit. I just tried to control what I can control. I’m just glad I was able to come back and get those three games in with all the guys. To be able to do that, I’m grateful for.”
Following the 2020 college football season, Tommy Doyle declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite having only played offensive line at college, with no high school experience, he is perhaps one of the most versatile offensive tackles in the class. He played at right tackle in 2018 before switching to left tackle in 2019. That versatility is set to make him a valuable commodity come the end of April.
“I think my versatility is definitely going to be help me. Being able to play right or left tackle, or even guard. Whatever the team wants me to play, I’m willing to do. Having college experience playing both left and right tackle, it was a challenge but I’m to the point where I can play either side, it doesn’t matter to me.”
He mentions playing guard which brings up somewhat of a contentious issue. Moving tackles inside to guard seems to be the favourite pastime of media analysts as players transition to the NFL from college, without ever giving them the opportunity to shine at their preferred position.
“I think I’m a tackle. I think I’m a really good tackle, and if a team wants me to play tackle then I’m happy to do it but if they think that playing guard is the best thing for the team then that’s what I’ll do. I feel like I’m a team guy and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. But at the end of the day, I see myself as a tackle.”
NFL Draft Preparation
One of the biggest stigmas of playing non-power five football is the level of competition. Despite players from conference such as the MAC finding success in the NFL, it’s an unfair measuring stick used to evaluate talent. However, Tommy Doyle points to one game against power five opposition that demonstrated everything that he brings to the 2021 NFL Draft table.
“In 2019, my first start as a left tackle, I’d never played left tackle before and I was able to go out there and perform pretty well against a good Iowa team, some good defensive ends. I felt confident with that. I really think you can watch all my tape, you can see how I’ve progressed.”
Teams have all the tape they need to see the aggressive, smart, and tough offensive tackle that Tommy Doyle is. Now he just has the Miami (OH) Pro Day on March 29th to demonstrate the athlete he is. He’s been working hard since the end of the season to put himself in the best position to succeed.
“Its going really well. I just got back from TEST Football Academy in New Jersey. I was there for nine weeks. Got a lot of good work in, changing my body composition, increasing my strength, working on all the combine-type drills. I was able to work with Rich Seubert who was the guard for the Giants for nine years, so he’s an NFL vet that I was able to work with. I’ve been working the past couple months on performing very well at Pro Day and showcasing my athleticism. I feel prepared, I feel confident, and I’m excited to get out there and perform.”
It’s the final piece of an NFL Draft process that comes to a conclusion in one month. Tommy Doyle has garnered plenty of interest, and he’s had multiple meetings with teams. In a deep offensive tackle class at the 2021 NFL Draft, what will the Miami Redhawks left tackle bring to the NFL team that selects him?
“I’m smart, tough, and competitive. You watch my tape, I’ve continued to get better every single year I’m able to play both right and left tackle. I’m an excellent pass blocker. I can blow guys up at the line of scrimmage in the run game. I think my personality is going to take me far in terms of my work ethic, my determination to achieve my dreams.”
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Huge thanks to Tommy Doyle for taking the time to speak to us.