MARSHALL, Minn. - Four years after setting several records during his high school career at Armstrong-Ringsted, running back Tyler Tonderum spent the 2013 season setting records at Southwest Minnesota State University.
In his first full season as a starter, the 5-10, 191-pound junior carried the ball 315 times for 1,979 yards and 18 touchdowns-all school records.
For his efforts, Tonderum has been selected as one of 28 finalists for the Harlon Hill Award, which is given annually to the top player in Division II football. The National Harlon Hill Award Committee announced the list of candidates recently. The list includes seven players from each of the four Division II Super Regions.
Tyler Tonderum scores one of his 19 touchdowns (18 rushing, one receiving) for Southwest Minnesota State University during the 2013 season.
Photo: SMSU / Greg Devereaux
He is the first SMSU player ever nominated for the award.
Tonderum has rushed for more than 100 yards in nine of 11 games and has rushed for more than 200 yards four times, including a school record 343 yards. He has already set the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference single-season rushing record and has set seven school single-season records and two single-game school records.
Tonderum is quick to give credit to his teammates for his success this season.
He said SMSU was picked to finish 12th in the 16 team conference after a 4-7 record a year ago. The Mustangs finished fourth.
"We had five senior offensive linemen who have played together the past two seasons," he said. "Our quarterback does a great job of throwing as is very accurate. We also have some good wide receivers."
Tonderum said that versatility kept defenses from concentrating on stopping him.
One of the first highlights of the season came in Week 2 of the season against Minnesota State, Moorhead.
"It was a muddy game on a grass field and there was 2-to-3 inches of rain," said Tonderum. "We ran the ball the entire game. Overall it was a fun game and we won on a last-second pass."
Tonderum set the single game school record with 343 rushing yards on 42 carries. He also had three touchdowns.
The Mustang junior also enjoys cheering for his defense. He cites defensive stands in games against Upper Iowa (52-48) and Winona State (51-44, OT) as other highlights of the 2013 season.
"Those were make or break situations," Tonderum said.
Tonderum patiently waited until it was his turn to take a role as a starter. After redshirting the 2010 season, he mostly helped out on special teams in 2011 and 2012.
"I was just trying to get better at the running back position," Tonderum said of how he spent his time. "Learning to block and read defense, follow the blocks and just get faster. I also learned by focusing on those (players) who were ahead of me."
Tonderum, a three-time state track qualifier in high school, said he is running the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds and working to get to 4.35. In the weight room, he works on squats and other exercises to make his legs and lower body stronger.
SMSU earned a bowl trip and will play in the Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior, Mo. , on Saturday, Dec. 7. The opponent is Pittsburgh State, one of the most successful programs in Div. II football and ranked ninth in the nation this season.
"It will be a great team that we face," Tonderum said.
Tonderum enjoys having family and friends at his games from Armstrong-Ringsted and Emmet County.
"We had a tremendous group who came up to games in Marshall or even at away sites," he said. "At the Metrodome, about 50 people from high school showed up. I've had great support from friends and family."