For years playing football, Tyler Rader pushed around tires in preparation for moving 300-pound defensive linemen. Now, the one-time WVU offensive lineman pushes around tires for Richard Childress Racing, putting cars in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series into Victory Lane.
Rader was a four-year offensive lineman whose last game came in the form of possibly the last great memory for most WVU fans: the 2012 Orange Bowl.
But that was the last hoorah for Rader.
Not long after the season had ended, he found himself contemplating his next move, which at the time was looking like joining the military. Instead, he got a phone call about something that excited him.
“Two months after the Orange Bowl I was sitting around campus with nothing to do really. And my Dad called me,” Rader remembered. “He’s a big NASCAR fan and he told me that RCR had a pit crew tryout.”
Before he knew it, Rader was on his way to North Carolina to tryout as a pit crew member for Richard Childress Racing, the same team that housed the famous Dale Earnhardt for much of his career.
The workout, much like some of his teammates might have been doing at the NFL Scouting Combine put his skills to the test.
The powers that be liked what they saw in the offensive lineman and offered him a job.
During his first season on the crew of Austin Dillon, Rader became part of a Nationwide Series championship team and has since stayed under contract with Richard Childress Racing, bouncing around from crew to crew when called upon.
While some athletes take odd and end jobs after college until they can find a way to make it to the big leagues, Rader has already found his calling. And it’s not the NFL.
“This is my career choice. The Orange Bowl was the last time that I’ll ever suit up for football,” Rader said. “This is what I plan on doing for the next 30, 40 years.”
While the sport itself may be over for Rader, the lessons he learned by playing on the offensive line for WVU are engrained in his mind and have transferred over to his current profession.
Being on a pit crew, Rader said, isn’t much different than playing on an offensive line.
You have six guys trying to do different things and come together as one. The cohesion and communication is if one guy messes up the whole pit crew messes up. You have to trust all positions to do their job,” the gas man said. ” t going to play. If you can’t do it on pit row you won’t have a job.
“Dealing with multiple personalities in the locker room is like working with people in the shop. You have to be able to know how to balance all of their personalities. That’s where football has helped me the most.”
Now, while Rader mainly works on Ty Dillon’s crew on the Nationwide circuit, he’s helped out with Austin Dillon and AJ Allmendinger’s crew in the Sprint Cup.
His new weekly routine isn’t much different that a workout schedule for the football team. Mondays through Thursdays are spent working in the shop, getting the car ready for the race much like a football team would prepare for a week on their upcoming opponent. Fridays are a day of rest and Saturday is the big day as that’s usually when the Nationwide races are held. If called upon to work the Sprint Cup race, Rader will stay overnight and pitch in on Sunday.
While Rader likes the Spring Cup a little bit better because of the pressure riding on the swiftness and quality of the pit stops, he’s found a home at RCR doing whatever he’s called upon to do, just like he was at WVU.