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Central's Gaer relishing in Shrine Bowl opportunity

Jun. 8—CHEYENNE — For most athletes, the final game of their high school season is the last chance they have to play the sports that they love. After playing football since he was in second grade, former Cheyenne Central tackle Tyler Gaer saw his football playing days come to an end when the Indians were knocked out of the Class 4A playoffs in late-October.

But at this afternoon's 51st Wyoming Shrine Bowl, which takes place in Casper, Gaer will get one last chance to play alongside a few of his former Central teammates, as well as some former competitors.

It's an opportunity Gaer is excited to be a part of.

"It meant a lot because no one in my family has been able to do it," Gaer said. "I'm the first one to do it, so it means a lot to me (to be a part of the Shrine Bowl).

"I'm just going to go out there and give it my all because it's my last game. If we win, we win, but we'll see what happens."

Gaer started his football career in second grade, when he put on a helmet and pair of shoulder pads for the first time. The initial interest in the sport came from his desire to just be outside and his general interest in football.

What kept him around, however, was the relationships built with teammates.

"(I just love) the camaraderie on the team," Gaer said. "You're just a dude with a bunch of dudes.

"... I've been on some pretty good teams, and probably the one I won't ever forget was my junior year of high school. We did lose in the semis (to Sheridan), but that team was probably the best I've ever been on."

Gaer has always felt like his run blocking has been one of his biggest strengths, and this past season, he proved that. Gaer capped off his third season as a starter for Central by helping the Indians' offensive line average 193 yards per contest on the ground — a mark that ranked third in 4A. He also played on the defensive side, posting 41 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss and two pass break ups on the defensive line.

"By the time he was a senior, he was a kid that helped make our line calls and knows every position (on both sides)," Indians coach Mike Apodaca said. "It's just such a invaluable skill set to have.

"... You never have to worry about his effort, and when you get a high school kid like that, they're the core of your program."

But while Gaer was an impact player on both sides of the ball, it's what he did on the offensive end to help the team succeed that he takes the most pride in.

"I like scoring points more, to be honest," Gaer said.

Standing just shy of 6 feet tall, Gaer is far from the prototypical size of an offensive tackle. But what he lacked in size for Central, he more than made up for with his work ethic and heart.

"That's the beauty of high school football. If you get a kid with some heart and coachability, they can have success on the football field," Apodaca said. "Tyler is a perfect example of putting in the time and commitment throughout (his time), for sure."

Gaer's position on the offensive line is often held under a microscope, where he doesn't necessarily get credit when things go well and can end up taking the brunt of scrutiny when it isn't necessarily his fault.

Staying even keel throughout the ebbs and flows of a season is the main way to combat this. While it's easier said than done, Gaer gets through this by taking the wins as they come and digging in when times start to get tough.

"It's just a fight, and the longest person wins," Gaer said. "By season, I've had to learn how to balance that, but, overall, I've (been pretty good) at balancing everything."

While Saturday marks the end of Gaer's career on the field, the former Central standout is, for the most part, at peace with his time playing football and the things he has been able to accomplish.

But he said that doesn't rule out the chance of the fire being reignited at some point.

"I've done some pretty cool things with my football career, but you never know," Gaer said with a laugh.

Gaer will be joined in the Shrine Bowl game by former teammates Mason Counter and Miles Porwoll, as well as former Cheyenne East standouts Kolbe Dierks, Cam Hayes, Drew Jackson, Nathan Mirich and Colby Olson.

Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at matencio@wyosports.net. Follow him on X at @MattAtencio5.