The 2018 NFL Draft is set for Thursday, April 26th through Saturday, April 28th. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NFL journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we check in with Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta. A Downingtown, Pennsylvania product, Lauletta’s roots in football stretch back generations. He spent five years (one red-shirt) at Richmond University where he tallied over 10,000 yards passing and 73 touchdowns while completing over 63-percent of his passes. His stats may suggest it was easy, but as he’ll tell you, there were plenty who doubted him along the way.
I’ve been doubted my whole life. I was always telling people growing up that I was going to play in the NFL and everybody just said ‘yeah, sure kid. Whatever you say.’ But, I just kept working, kept pushing through the tough times and disappointments. That’s what’s gotten me to where I am now, on the verge of being drafted into the NFL.
Football is in my blood. My grandfather was a long-time coach, and my father and uncle played in college. My brother and I loved to play all sports, but we really gravitated to football because we had idolized my dad growing up. Seeing the pictures and watching the videos of him playing I wanted to be just like him. My dad and my older brother are probably the two biggest influences in my football career.
My brother is one year and ten months older than me, so we were close enough in age that we did everything together. I think that’s one of the reasons that athletically I’ve developed as well as I have because as a kid I was always trying to keep up with him. He was older than me and bigger than me, so he always took it to me in any competitive sport that we were playing. And, I was just such a competitive kid and I hated to lose so much that over time I developed the skills to be able to compete. Another thing was, I was always trying to hang out with my brother and his friends because playing against kids my age didn’t feel like enough of a challenge to me. I always wanted to be the best at what I did and hanging around them definitely guided me to where I’m at today.
My dad played at Navy back when they were a pro-style of offense. He said that when he went to the Naval Academy, he wasn’t ready for all of that. The seven-step drop, with a hitch and throw the comeback. He had just never been exposed to that because he was a triple-option quarterback in high school. But, he’s a smart guy, and he understands the mechanics and the position so well that growing up, he and my brother were my biggest coaches. They taught me a lot about how to throw the ball and how to do it the right way.
Watching a football game in my house was completely different from the way most other families watch football. We would rewind the game and replay different plays, admiring the quarterback play and talking about it. We truly were and are football junkies.
A lot of kids don’t have that and that’s a huge advantage because when I got to college, I felt like I already understood what the coverages meant and I just had a more in-depth understanding of football and a better football IQ than 95 percent of people that would be in the same position as me.
I remember my dad bringing out the camera and videotaping my brother and me throwing the ball. Then, we’d take it in and plug it into the TV and watch ourselves throw the ball and we’d dissect the angle of our elbows, the motion. That was the stuff we lived for. My dad really wanted me to be good and successful, so he would coach me in the side yard.
You don’t necessarily appreciate that when you’re younger, most of the time you’re just thinking ‘C’mon Dad, I just want to have a catch, not think about the proper mechanics of throwing the ball.’ But, now when I look back on it, I’m so thankful for him and all that he taught me because it really paid off in the long-term.
In high school, I faced a bit of adversity when I sprained my PCL. I had to wear a brace because of the sprain and I was bummed because I had prospect camps coming up. At the camps, the big schools will have you come in and go through drills to see if they can confirm what they’ve seen from you on tape. But, they also run you through drills like the 40-yard-dash and 5-10-5, that I just simply wasn’t able to do with the brace.
Now, who knows if in retrospect that was the reason I wasn’t offered by some of the big schools. It felt like I was close and maybe if one of those big schools had offered me, then maybe others would have tagged along. But, it’s crazy to think about because back then I just needed one opportunity and now it feels like since I’ve left Richmond, I’ve gotten the opportunity to prove myself to all of these teams.
The chip on my shoulder and drive to prove doubters wrong didn’t start with the college recruiting process though. No, that started all the way back in seventh and eighth grade when I started playing quarterback and was the 3rd-string guy. I’ve been doubted my whole life.
Man, those kind of experiences just stick with you and every time you get up in practice and you picture yourself playing in the NFL, it’s those failures and sleights that stick in your head and give you the motivation to keep pushing. When things are hard and training is hard, you’re waking up at 6:30/7 in the morning to lift, you think back and say, man I started out and I was 3rd-string. Nobody thought I would have a chance at this thing. All the success that I’ve had, I’m the only one that hasn’t been surprised by this.
There’s two main experiences from my time at Richmond that are going to stick with me for a long time. The first one was in 2015, I was a red-shirt sophomore. It was my first year starting and we played James Madison at JMU. College Gameday was actually at this game.
Thad Lee was the starter for JMU after transferring from Georgia Tech and there was a ton of press leading up to that game, and we were 14 point underdogs. Nobody was giving us a shot in that game, and we broke through with 715 yards of total offense in a win and we surprised everybody. That was a great moment for our program and a huge moment in my career having as good a game as I did.
Then, the following year, to open the season, we played Virginia at Virginia. We just dominated right from the start of the game, going on to win 37-20. To start off the season beating an ACC opponent like that, on the road, was huge. That was the first time we had beaten UVA since like the 1940s or 50s so it was a huge win for our program.
As I prepare for the NFL, the biggest part of my game that I’m focused on improving is taking care of the football and not forcing the ball into tight windows. Basically, not turning the ball over as much as I did in my career at Richmond. That all starts with watching film and dissecting situational football. As a quarterback, I believe that there are certain situations where its advantageous to maybe be more aggressive than others. Understanding when are the right and wrong times to be aggressive can come through watching film.
The other big thing to me is footwork. I think I have decent feet, but as a QB, having your feet right is absolutely everything because it’s kind of a domino effect. If your feet are in line, then your hips are in line. If your feet are wrong, then the throw is going to be off and something in the chain of your throwing motion is off.
Either you stride too far, or your weight isn’t correctly displaced, you’re likely going to have a problem in the throw. That’s why those two things are my biggest areas of focus during this time leading up to the draft.
What do I bring to your team? Well, I think I bring three different things. One, is accuracy. I think I’m an extremely accurate passer and to me, accuracy isn’t something that you can vastly improve on once you get to the next level. Either you have it or you don’t. In my case, it’s always been one of the strongest parts of my game.
The second thing I bring to the team is a high football IQ. With all of the offensive coordinators that I had in college and my background of growing up in a football family. I think I have a really good understanding of the game of football. And, I think whatever situation I’m put into, I think I can be ready to go in the offense quickly and pick up the game.
You see a lot of prospects come out and need a year or two to develop. I think I’m ready to go right away and teams can be comfortable putting me in a game situation knowing that I can perform well.
The last thing is, I think I’m a great leader and get along well with my teammates. Studying in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at Richmond really helped me to learn how to be a leader in any situation. Not everybody can be led by the same leadership style and I’ve learned to tailor my style to what each person needs. I was a captain each of my last two years at Richmond and I’m comfortable in that leadership role and look forward to being in that role at the next level.