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Wayzata is a premier suburb located 11 miles west of downtown Minneapolis. With a population of 4,500 people, Wayzata is a tight-knit community which is known for its vibrant downtown and picturesque setting on Lake Minnetonka. A popular destination for visitors, Wayzata’s downtown is home to a number of specialty shops, boutiques, professional services, and restaurants.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Catching up with the Tarpleys (part 3)


AJ Tarpley. Photo credit Rivals.com.
This is the third installment of CATCHING UP WITH THE TARPLEYS, an inside scoop into the lives of one of the families that has contributed a great deal to the success of the Wayzata Trojan football team in recent years.

In this segment, we will visit with AJ Tarpley. AJ was a linebacker on the 2008 Championship team, and is now a red-shirt freshman starting for the Stanford Cardinal.
DG: YOU ARE A SOPHOMORE NOW?

AJ Tarpley: Yeah, a red-shirt freshman.

DG:  YOU ARE PLAYING AT STANFORD, STARTING RIGHT?

AJ: I'm starting at the Mike linebacker position.

DG: FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW, WHAT IS THE MIKE LINEBACKER?

AJ: It's an inside linebacker in a 3-4 [defense].  There are two of them about five yards off the ball.

DG: YOU ARE HAVING A POSITIVE IMPACT FOR THE TEAM?

AJ: Yeah.  This was my fourth start last week, I played mostly on special teams.  I traded in at linebacker for the first 5 games.  I started the next four.  Arizona, Washington State, USC, and last week against Oregon State.

DG: STANFORD IS UNDEFEATED AT THIS POINT, WHAT IS THAT LIKE?

AJ: It's incredible.  We have a goal this season, and we are happy to be where we are right now.  It's been good so far, we haven't played as good as we can.  To get to 9-0 right now and be in the position we are in, we are definitely grateful for it.  It's a pretty unreal experience.

DG: I WANT TO TALK WITH YOU ABOUT THE 2008 CHAMPIONSHIP, AND THE 2009 LOSS TO EDEN PRAIRIE.  WALK ME THROUGH 2008, AND HOW DID THAT ALL COME ABOUT?

AJ: I think it was partly everybody.  We had a great team, great players, great coaches. It was definitely a good season.  The team I remember--I was a junior and I was playing with some other juniors around me.  There was senior leadership--my brother was obviously one of them, John Reese at Quarterback, at defense John Connolly, Paul Hoffer and Kevin Potus and some other guys there too.  Things went our way a couple of times, and we were able to go undefeated and win state.

DG: THE BLAINE GAME WAS THE ICING ON THE CAKE, PARTICULARLY AS YOUR BROTHER CAUGHT THAT PASS FROM FRITZ ROCK FOR THE GO-AHEAD SCORE.  WHAT WAS THAT LIKE FOR YOU AND FOR HIM?

AJ:  That was great.  There was also the play before that when I didn't quite get to a ball in the endzone.  But I could not be happier because of the way the next play ended up--my brother catching the touchdown for the win.  It was an unreal experience.  He and Fritz definitely deserved it.

DG: WHEN YOU HAD BREAKFAST THE NEXT DAY WITH YOUR BROTHER, WHAT WERE YOU GUYS TALKING ABOUT?

AJ: I was complimenting him, and telling him what a great job he did.  And he would tell me, next year is your year, go out and do the same thing.  We were back and forth, enjoying it.

DG:  WALK ME THROUGH THE EDEN PRAIRIE LOSS IN THE DOME IN 2009.

AJ: The last play for us was the double pass that ended up being intercepted. Up until that point, we were still in a good position-- 7 to 3 and we were trying to drive down and score to win it. It was just one of those plays where the defense knew it was coming, the safety made a good play.

DG: DID INJURIES PLAY A PART THAT SEASON? LOSING GUYS LIKE AARON ROTH?  WOULD YOU HAVE HAD A BETTER OPPORTUNITY IF EVERYONE WAS HEALTHY?

AJ: Yeah. It was fun to see them win it the next year.  His injury was huge just because--because he added another dimension to our offense.  You can always go back and say that the outcome would be different.  I think it would have been an advantage if he was healthy.  Another guy that was hurt also was Jack Egan--one of our linebackers who also played wide receiver.  It's a different ball game if they are there, but no discredit to Eden Prairie--they played a good game and they won it.

DG: HOW DID WAYZATA PREPARE YOU TO PLAY AT THE NEXT LEVEL?

AJ: It helped me a lot.  The big thing was just the guys that come out of there.  Especially for me as a linebacker, James Laurinaitis.  I grew up watching him play on the field, going to Ohio State to All-American to the NFL. Other guys of course, Dom Barber, Marion Barber, Ben Hamilton, those guys have gone through.  It just shows you, ok, people have gone from this high school.  It is one of those things that helps as far as confidence.  Also the coaches, and just the overall program--Matt Lombardi, RJ Johnson, have really helped me as far as recruiting and getting better every day.  Both of those guys are very good coaches,  so I definately credit them.  I also just want to credit the players around me--Wayzata is a winning program. All that combined--the coaches, the players, the program's history, and the guys that have gone have helped me get to Stanford.

DG: IS THE PROGRAM GETTING STRONGER?

AJ: I think they have won forty of the last forty-seven games and only lost two, and it's great to see the kids that were real young when you were playing also getting better as well.

DG: WHAT IS COLLEGE LIKE, HAVE YOU ADJUSTED TO THAT OK?

AJ: Last year was a red-shirt year, so not much going on. This year has definately been fun.  Right now I'm just placing all my focus on football while making sure I am doing good in school.  It's a two part thing and it has been good so far.

AJ Tarpley recovers a fumble against USC to win the game in triple overtime.  Photo credit LA Times.
DG: YOU FELL ON THAT FOOTBALL IN THE ENDZONE AGAINST USC TO WIN THE GAME.  WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

AJ:  It was an incredible experience.  We were in the third overtime, and it was our third start.  I had a pretty good game up to that, still had some mistakes--played better.  I was feeling good, the confidence out there let me play well.  The defense, we kept telling oursevles 'all we need is one stop and Andrew Luck would score and win it for us'.  It was the third overtime, they scored and we had gotten eight the time before so all we had to do was hold them.  They made a play [to get a first down], and the next play I saw the ball pop out, instantly shed my guy, ran over and dove on it.  It was an unreal experience.  At first it didn't really hit me that we won in the third overtime to keep our undefeated season alive until I got up and everybody surrounded me.  That is when everything hit me, it was just an incredible feeling with the team mates.

DG:  DID YOU KEEP THAT BALL?

AJ: I kept it after the game, but I gave it to Head Coach David Shaw.

DG: DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO STUDY?

AJ: I'm undecided right now.  Finishing up all my general education requirements.  Maybe political science--it's still open right now.

Read the rest of the segment, Catching up with the Tarpleys here:

1. Parents Audie and Karen Tarpley give an inside look at the 2008 Championship
2. Junior Wide Receiver for Ole Miss Matt Tarpley talks about playing at Wayzata and in the SEC
3. Sophomore Linebacker AJ Tarpley talks about his experiences at Stanford and playing at Wayzata


Wayzata.com is your source for news and information in Wayzata, MN, 55391, and the Wayzata Trojans and is brought to you by Re/Max Results Wayzata REALTOR Dan Gustafson.

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