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Logan • After a recent practice, Utah State linebacker Kyler Fackrell faced a throng of reporters with his 1-year-old daughter, Delaney, in his arms.
Every few seconds, she would reach out to grab a microphone and Fackrell would pull her hand back as he kept talking. The father-daughter game went on for about 10 minutes, with Fackrell gently correcting his daughter countless times with one of his big, gloved hands.
It was perhaps the most tender moment Fackrell will have on a football field this season. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive player isn't exactly known for a loving touch when it comes to the game that could make Fackrell a rich man one day.
Selected as the best defender in the Mountain West in a preseason poll, Fackrell has been named to every major award watch list that applies to linebackers and should fare well in the 2016 NFL draft, if he shows the injury that cut short his 2014 season is healed.
Fackrell believes that challenge won't be a tough one.
"The knee feels completely healed," he said. "I worked a long time in rehab in the training room, so I'm confident in it. I still won't know until I get out there in a game because it has been so long, but I feel good about it."
That is a warning shot to Mountain West opposing offenses to watch out for Fackrell, who already has established himself as one of the best players the Aggies have ever had.
After he started in all 13 games as a freshman in 2012, Fackrell had a breakout season in 2013. He started all 14 games and earned second-team all-Mountain West honors as he led the team with 13 tackles for a loss, tied for first with two forced fumbles, was second with five sacks and ranked fourth with 82 total tackles.
Feeling confident after that campaign, Fackrell went into the 2014 season focused to have his best year. Instead, his season came ended in the opener at Tennessee when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the second quarter.
The rest of his season was spent in the training room, where he and quarterback Chuckie Keeton both set goals of returning to the field in improved form.
It looks like both have met those goals, with Keeton leading the offense in camp while Fackrell has drawn praise from the coaches for his efforts.
"He is our defensive leader," Utah State coach Matt Wells said. "Sometimes you don't know how much you miss something until it is taken away from you and then it makes you work that much harder. He and Chuckie both experienced that some."
Fackrell didn't spend all his time in the training room. The down time let him concentrate on other things, such as the birth of his daughter to his wife, Elizabeth.
"She was pregnant at the time and taking care of me, too, because I was on crutches," he said. "But it was amazing to have that kind of time to spend with her and the baby."
Becoming a father helped Fackrell mature. He has become a vocal leader as a senior, knowing it is on him and the other seniors to make sure the new Aggies know the high standard previous defenses have set.
"So far, things have gone really well," he said. "The guys behind in the secondary have come along, and I like how everyone is playing."
He sets a high standard others follow, said defensive lineman John Taylor, who called Fackrell a "special dude."
"To play with somebody who's that good and still humble, it really makes you think about yourself and makes you want to work harder," Taylor said. "It pushes everybody around you."
About Kyler Fackrell
Height/Weight • 6-foot-5, 250 pounds
Class • Senior
Hometown • Mesa, Ariz.
Of note • Picked as the preseason Mountain West defender of the year for 2015. … Suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2014 season opener at Tennessee last year. … Started all 14 games in 2013, earning second-team all-Mountain West honors after leading the team with 13 tackles for loss. … Returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown against Hawaii in 2013.
Utah State camp report
The Aggies decided to close Wednesday's scrimmage to the public and media with coach Matt Wells noting the coaches were looking for players to define their roles so they could start making personnel decisions.
"It goes from an evaluation standpoint to a decision making standpoint for coaches as we get closer to the end of training camp," he said.
The Aggies will have a brief practice Thursday afternoon, two on Friday and then a scrimmage Saturday in conjunction with the 10th annual Aggie Football Family Fun Day, with activities starting at 5 p.m.