Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, not the painter, is known for his aggression and his sarcastic sense of humor. He’s a tough guy who knows what he wants and will do what it takes to accomplish that. Though fierce, he is extremely loyal to his friends, teammates and family.Sound familiar?Bobby Wagner, a senior linebacker from Ontario, Calif., is Utah State’s Raphael.It works out, because it turns out Wagner is a huge fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Many Aggie fans may have seen him walking around campus with his turtle shell backpack, but that is only the beginning.Wagner said he has been a fan of the group of fighting turtles for his whole life.”I was two years old when I started loving it. I was just little, but from then on it was a wrap. It was pretty popular back then so when I was five and could watch it every day I did,” Wagner said. “I had the pajamas, the blankets, the shoes, the toys, everything. As I grew up, I just stayed in love with it.”Even now, at 21, nothing has changed. In fact, he may be more into a fan of the heros in half-shells now. Despite being a serious athlete, with serious goals and aspirations, and a serious leader on the field, off the field he can let loose with a little “Turtle Power.”There are backpacks, custom-made shoes and his nieces and nephews don’t hesitate to give him Ninja Turtle toys as gifts. “I have the all the DVD’s; the ones I watch and then the collector’s ones that I won’t even touch,” Wagner said. “If I could get a Ninja Turtles tattoo I would.”As the preseason WAC Defensive Player of the Year, Wagner has a lot to live up to during his senior season.Wagner has had three stellar seasons in his time at Utah State, even among all the changes he’s gone through. His freshman year was the last year under former head coach Brent Guy. Wagner and the coaching staff didn’t always see eye to eye.”I really couldn’t do anything. The coaches really limited me,” Wagner said. “But then Coach Andersen came, and he let me play. He’s the reason for my success.”Wagner couldn’t give enough credit to head coach Gary Andersen and his linebacker coach Kevin Clune. “Coach Clune has been a great person to me, he taught me a lot, linebacker-wise,” Wagner said. “I credit my success to them.”When the 2009 season came and Andersen was in charge, things started turning around, not just for Wagner, but for USU football as a whole. Morale among the team skyrocketed and they once again loved what they were doing. “Coach Andersen just changed the whole perspective of this football program. From the facilities to the gear we get, he’s turned it all around,” Wagner said. In all seriousness, he continued by saying “We’re closer as a team. We’re more of a family, not really separated groups.”You can tell that just by watching the team both on and off the field. Walking back to the locker room after practice or just hanging out between classes, the camaraderie among the players is there and it is deep. They can joke and make fun of each other. They aren’t afraid to throw around some jabs, but they also know they are here to play football and they want to do their best at that.The football team is a family of sorts for Wagner, but he gets stronger influences from his immediate family. Before his sophomore year, Wagner’s mother passed away. Since that day everything he does is for her.”She’s been a big influence on my life; she still is,” Wagner said. “She’s my number one fan, and I play for her every single day.”Like the famous red-masked turtle, loyalty is a noticeable quality in Wagner and is something by which he has lived his life. Loyalty is what brought him to Logan in the first place.After getting a late start in football at Colony High School, there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest from college teams. Utah State was there with an offer. A few other universities started acting interested in him, but backed out in the end because of his lack of experience. “Utah State stayed with me, so I stayed loyal to the people loyal to me,” Wagner said. And he has continued to stay loyal and give his all to the success of Utah State football. As his senior season picks up, Wagner is up for multiple preseason awards and nominations. He is on watch lists for the Butkus Award, honoring the nation’s top linebacker, the Rotary Lombardi Award, honoring the nation’s top lineman, and the Bronko Nagurski Award, honoring the country’s best defensive player. These national awards, named for prominent football players, hold significant meaning. They aren’t just about the game of football, but the winner must exemplify the qualities of the award’s namesakes. They must demonstrate qualities of service, compassion and determination. At the WAC Media Day in Las Vegas in July, he was named the WAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He is one of 30 NCAA football players in the country being considered for the LOWE’s Senior CLASS Award, an award that honors academic, athletic and character traits. Wagner said it isn’t all about the awards for him. “It just drives me. It lets me know where I want to end up at the end of the season. I’m not all about individual awards per se, but if we do what we do as a football team, the success will come,” he said. “As long as we keep winning and continue to turn our program around, there will be a lot more players getting individual recognition as well as team recognition.”Winning. Success. Ask any Aggie football player and those are the things they will identify as goals for the season. Wagner isn’t one to disagree. As a senior, he wants to go out on a high note, with an excellent season under his belt. Wagner has major aspirations of finishing his final season by leading the Aggies to a bowl game. He knows he will need to be a leader, like his favorite Turtle, Raphael.For most people who grew up in the 1990s, Ninja Turtles are just a part of our childhood, but for Wagner, they, especially Raphael, are more than that. Aggressive, tough, determined, loyal and dependable, the turtle and the linebacker have a lot in common and live for what they do. As Wagner finishes up his time at Utah State and heads toward his dream of playing in the NFL, he will keep up his Raphael persona.”He’s just a tough guy and that’s what you have to be on the football field,” Wagner said. -USU-
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