Christion looks to cement legacy

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MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

John Begeman

Taryn Christion is coming off of one of his biggest games of his career — during which he threw six interceptions and fumbled three times in a 51-16 loss against James Madison (JMU) in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal.

If someone can handle the highest of highs and lowest of lows – it’s Taryn Christion.

“He’s mature enough not to have a chip on his shoulder from the James Madison game,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I think he’s used that in the most positive way anybody could use it.”

In his first appearance since the JMU debacle, Christion torched the Montana State defense for 391 yards, four touchdowns and managed to take care of the ball — allowing zero turnovers. In that game, Christion became just the second player in Missouri Valley Football Conference history to surpass 10,000 yards of total offense.

In 2017, Christion experienced some career highs. That year, Christion set a South Dakota State single-season record with 35 passing touchdowns.

Taryn Christion is rewriting the history books for South Dakota State. Christion owns a 23-8 record as the fourth year starting quarterback and owns seven different single season records.

Christion owns the passing yards record of 3,714 in 2016 and passing touchdowns when he threw 35 in 2017. The 6-foot-2-inch, senior also has SDSU career records for touchdown passes (72) and total offense (9,697 yards).

The James Madison game wasn’t the only road bump that Christion has experienced in his football career.

Following his stand-out junior season at Roosevelt High School, where he had 3,537 total yards and was selected to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader Elite 45, Christion committed to play football at SDSU.

In 2015, during the third game of his senior year at Roosevelt, Christion suffered a season-ending injury.

“Getting injured was tough, it was a humbling experience — you never think that’s going to happen to you,” he said. “I couldn’t walk — some people can never walk. I learned to be grateful for what I had and the opportunity to play the game. It forced me to realize how much of an impact a person can have even if they aren’t on the field.”

Coming into his first collegiate year, Christion knew if he worked hard he could win the second spot on the depth chart behind junior starting quarterback Zach Lujan — and that’s exactly what he did.

“Getting recruited, Coach [Eric] Eidsness told me I might have a chance to play here my freshman year, but it wasn’t just handed to me,” Christion said. “It took a lot of work studying film, reading the playbook and putting in reps. I won the second job and then Lujan unfortunately went down, but you’ve got to be ready when your chance is given no matter how that happens.”

Christion then went on to play in eight games and start four as a true freshman, posting a 3-1 record as the starting quarterback. He threw for 1,286 yards and rushed for another 347 yards on his way to being named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team.

“Zach Lujan shared a lot of wisdom with me. He always told me my freshman year, ‘Just be smarter than the average freshman and that will get you on the right path,’” Christion said.

Entering his sophomore year, Christion won the starting spot in fall camp over senior quarterback Lujan.

“Even though I beat him out. I still learned so much from him on the sideline, and I like to take credit for his coaching career because he says he developed a knack for coaching that year,” Christion said with a laugh.

That year, Christion went on to put together one of the most impressive seasons a Jackrabbit quarterback has ever had.

As a sophomore, he set or tied 11 single-game or single-season school records on his way to becoming the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year and achieving third-team All-America honors.

In 2017, he threw for 35 passing touchdowns and 3,515 passing yards and he was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week twice while also a finalist for both the 2016 and 2017 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

“He can stress a defense in so many ways because he can do so many things with his feet, arm and intelligence. That’s what makes him so hard to defend,” Eidsness said. “It’s kind of like being a proud dad and watching your kid accomplish things and when he recognizes looks and checks into good plays it makes you feel good.”

A lot has changed since Christion stepped onto the practice field in the fall of 2016 as true freshman.

“He’s grown and we’ve had a lot of success with him and because of him,” Stiegelmeier said.

Beneath all the records, awards and statistics there is a quiet, confident leader.

“He doesn’t relish standing in front of the 60 guys on the travel roster and giving a speech,” Stiegelmeier said. “But he’s in his element when he goes up to a guy and says ‘hey, that route wasn’t good enough’ or ‘great job.’”

As his senior season progresses Christion and the team have one singular goal and that’s to be in Frisco, Texas come January for the FCS National Championship