Kyle Lauletta has never been anyone’s first choice at quarterback.
In seventh grade, he was third-string and had to wait two years for an opportunity.
In high school, he had to wait until his older brother graduated to get his chance. His older brother, Trey, incidentally was no slouch. He went on to play quarterback at Bucknell.
Colleges didn’t exactly bang down Lauletta’s door. He suffered a knee injury playing lacrosse and only two FBS schools (Toledo and Old Dominion) offered him scholarships. He chose Richmond, an FCS school, but as the story goes even there he had to throw a couple of times before the school offered him a scholarship.
Now, after three years as a highly-successful starter for the Spiders, he is on the NFL’s radar. There will, however, be perhaps as many as a half-dozen quarterbacks who hear their names called before Lauletta. And he won’t be one of the chosen few who get to walk across the stage and shake hands with Commissioner Roger Goodell.
During a phone conversation, Lauletta discussed his uphill climb to the NFL.
“I started playing quarterback in seventh grade and was the third string,” Lauletta said. “The first two years I played I never even got a chance at all, and being under-recruited and even at Richmond, just always being the underdog. I think it’s helped me, it’s motivated me.”
Third string, high school backup, under-recruited, doubted at Richmond or not, Lauletta said he has always envisioned a day when he could call himself an NFL quarterback.
“I don’t know if I pictured it exactly this way. The people that know me best do know that the NFL has always been in my sights and it’s always been a goal of mine,” Lauletta said. “The fact that I’m on the doorstep of a potential NFL career is not something that’s surprising to me, I’ve always been super-confident. But definitely it’s surprising to some others, and that’s kinda been the story of my whole career.”
Could that story lead Lauletta to the New York Giants, where there continues to be much debate and worry about the team’s post-Eli Manning plan at the quarterback position?
After impressive performances at the Senior Bowl, Combine and in his Pro Day the Giants were thought to be high on Lauletta as an alternative to the first tier of quarterbacks in this draft class. That turned out to be accurate.
I asked Lauletta to sell me on why the Giants should pass on a quarterback at No. 2 and take him with a later selection.
“If they weren’t to take a quarterback [at No.2] I would say if you wait and get a guy like me you’re getting a very accurate passer who can make all the throws on the football field. I have experience under center and I have experience running an NFL offense. I think I can process information quickly and I think making the jump to the NFL isn’t going to be that big of a transition to me. I think I’m ready to play and I think I’ll pick up the speed of the game rather quickly,” Lauletta said.
“The last thing I would say is the fact that I’ve been a captain the past two years. I think that leadership is something that I’ve studied in college, it’s something that I feel very comfortable with leading a group of guys and winning over a locker room. I think you get all those great things, and all those great qualities that you want in a winning quarterback. Ultimately, whatever team I go to I think I can help them win a Super Bowl some day.”
Lauletta said he would “absolutely” be happy to land with the Giants, where he would sit behind Manning and likely compete with Davis Webb to be heir to Manning’s throne.
“Being able to sit behind a veteran is a good situation to be in because obviously the transition to the NFL, the speed of the game and the complexity of defenses and all that is to a whole new level,” he said. “So being able to get a couple of years maybe to get acclimated and really learn and improve your game and be up to standard before you get some time I think that is a good situation.”
Lauletta passed for more than 3,000 yards in each of his three seasons as a starter at Richmond, finishing with 73 touchdown passes to 35 interceptions. He had a career completion percentage of 63.5.
Inside The Pylon says:
Lauletta is an experienced QB from the FCS with starter potential, who has impressive accuracy in the short and intermediate areas, but lacks top level arm talent, downfield velocity and has a tendency to stare down his targets.
Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout says:
He won’t wow with his physical tools, but his tape shows an efficient passer who is quick to scan and understands timing and placement. Overall, Lauletta has only average size and arm strength, but he is accurate, tough and intelligent with the mature make-up to handle quarterback responsibilities in the NFL.
Lauletta had a unique experience at Richmond, playing for four different offensive coordinators and in three distinct offensive systems — including two years in a pro-style offense — during his time at Richmond. A difficult circumstance, but one he thinks will help him transition to the NFL.
“When I was going through all of it it almost felt like each year like, man, why is this happening to me, and I was questioning a lot of things. But, exactly like you said, I’ve been exposed to so many different concepts,” Lauletta said.
“A big part of my game is taking notes. It’s very interesting to see the different notes and the different plays and those coaching points and those things that I’ve learned in each different offense and by each different coordinator. Those things still stick with me today and it’s been a blessing in disguise.”
Lauletta has drawn some comparisons to Jimmy Garoppolo, former FCS quarterback at East Illinois, second-round pick by the New England Patriots and now the starter for the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a comparison Lauletta embraces, saying Garoppolo “has a lot of great characteristics that I try to emulate.”
Lauletta was in the Leadership Studies program at Richmond, which he said was a “very unique experience. A lot of those skills translate to the football field.”
I asked Lauletta to pinpoint what he thought were the most important characteristics for an NFL quarterback.
“Accuracy, anticipation, football IQ, the ability to process and the ability to lead the team,” he said.
Does he possess those characteristics?
“If you think about the quarterback position and what the quarterback needs to do on each play he gets the ball and has to make split [second] decisions, he’s trying to throw the ball into windows with defensive players all around him and the speed of the game is quicker, but you need a quarterback who can kind of slow the game down. One, with his thinking. Your mind is going a hundred miles an hour, but the quarterbacks who are the best are the guys who can really slow it down and make those split decisions and ultimately take care of the football,” Lauletta said.
“I think I’ve demonstrated the ability to adapt and learn a new system and have success in it. I think I’ve improved as a passer each year and I’ve improved my game. That’s something I really, truly believe that I’ll continue to do at the next level. I think I have a very high ceiling.”
Will he get a chance to reach that ceiling with the Giants? We will find out in just about two weeks.