Thursday Q & A: Kyle Theret, University of Minnesota
In the second part of this series covering local and regional athletes training in Wisconsin for the upcoming NFL Draft, we shine the spotlight on California native Kyle Theret, a four year starter at defensive back for the University of Minnesota. In his collegiate career with the Gophers, Kyle collected 262 total tackles and came within 2 interceptions of the school’s career record during his time in the Big Ten.
With you being a University of Minnesota graduate and myself a Wisconsin native, hopefully there are no hard feelings here. How did you end up training in Wisconsin?
That’s fine; I’m used to it now. One of my best friends went to Arrowhead High School and he trained here with (NX Level owner) Brad Arnett, and I came up here in the summer to have him look at my back and he fixed it up nice and quick. And then I saw the results that (San Francisco 49er) Chris Maragos got last year, a DB from Wisconsin at Pro Day, working with Brad, so it was the best fit for me.
You’re graduating the final year before the Big Ten adds its 12th team and splits into divisions. What are your thoughts on the divisions and the conference’s future?
I think it’s a good thing. It’s what they needed because they needed a conference championship. With how the SEC and Big 12 do it, it’s best to have that championship at the end of the season. I think it’s good to get another team like Nebraska; it’s only going to make your conference better. Both divisions are set up pretty evenly. Being a Minnesota guy I think they have the favorable league so I like what they did with that. Other than that I think it’s all good.
Who are some people you looked up to in football?
Growing up I was always a big Ricky Williams fan because I played running back and I always wore number 34. I started out because of Walter Payton, and Ricky Williams, he was just the guy I always watched, he was my favorite football player. When I started playing defense I started watching guys like Troy Polamalu and John Lynch when I lived in Denver, I got to see Lynch play a lot in person. Bob Sanders was another guy I always watched just because he was a smaller player like me and I wanted to emulate myself after him.
Have you played any other positions in football?
Yeah I always played running back and receiver, I liked playing receiver, I wish I could play receiver now. When I was in high school my first year I played quarterback and we ran the option. After my sophomore year of high school I moved to Colorado and switched to linebacker there. When I got to college, my first year I was playing corner for the first few games, then later on I switched to safety and I’ve been there from then on out.
You ever watch Charles Woodson, another Big Ten guy, a multi-position guy?
Yeah, because growing up I was an Ohio State fan, my Mom is from Ohio and so I always watched the Michigan-Ohio State games. So I’d always see Charles Woodson play in that. And once he got to the NFL he kept doing his thing and now he’s better than ever.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Probably something similar to what I’m going through right now, getting recruited out of high school. As a short guy not many teams want to take a chance on you. It’s kind of one of those things where you have to prove people wrong. It’s not a favorable position to be in but it’s good because you’re always doing more than people expect you to. That was probably the biggest thing, just getting recruited, because my whole thing is that I wanted a chance, and I knew that once I got a chance in college I could compete and play with the best of them. That’s kind of what I’m hoping for now, just to get a chance to keep competing.
No, not really. I wish we would have won more games, but other than that I took things very seriously. I wish I wouldn’t have gotten in as much trouble maybe but you learn from those experiences, I grew up from those experiences. If I could have helped keep a couple of my friends there, a bunch of my friends left, that was probably the hardest thing was seeing all your other guys leave and not finishing their careers and not graduating from school. I wish I could have had more part to keep them there and help them out. But other than that I went at it full-force and did everything I could.
You were there during a stadium change. What did you like about both venues?
The Metrodome was cool because going from high school to playing in a big indoor dome was pretty cool, and it is a professional stadium, it’s really loud, a really cool environment. But on the other hand it didn’t feel like a college game compared to the other games. So when we first moved outside to TCF it actually felt like a college game and it actually felt like our home field instead of a stadium that we shared. So it was a whole new experience, it was a brand new stadium, fans loved it, it picked up the spirit of our school again. It was a big deal to have it on campus so students could walk to the game. It brought the whole college feel back to our campus.
You were also there during a coaching change. How difficult was the transition?
The toughest part about it was that it was mid-season. It got leaked out the night before we played Purdue in week 7, we were staying in the hotel Friday night, and we were watching TV, about to go to bed. On the ticker it said it was leaked that if we lost the game the next day our coach would be fired. So that was a big deal to the players to know that your head coach, the guy that recruited you, the guy that brought you there, that his job was on the line the next day if we didn’t perform. You feel for the guy because he’s depending on you to keep his job. It was just one of those things where, it didn’t feel like he should have been fired, but it’s just the nature of the business and you had to keep going on. We were there to win games. Being a senior I had to rally the guys around me with the other seniors, we just kept going and pushing forward, and we ended up winning our last two games. So it worked out. Our interim head coach was great, Jeff Horton was a really good guy, really good coach, so it worked out, he kept the team together and we finished the season fine.
Describe the importance of your role on your team.
I think I was one of the leaders. I started since I was a freshman, and the biggest thing I had was experience and as I got older, our team got younger and younger. When I was a senior we had a ton of young guys playing and they were put in a lot of situations they had never been in before. It was just (me) using my experience to get people to do the right things and work hard and understand the right path to win some games because I was on the team when we were really bad and I was on the team when we were ranked. On defense I was the one making the calls in the back end, so as I got older I got more comfortable with that.
What was your least favorite play to run?
My least favorite play was probably running 2-man, because all I do is drop deep, all the other guys are in man-to-man underneath, and it when we get these scramble quarterbacks, sometimes we are only rushing 4 defensive linemen. When we play (Ohio State’s) Terrell Pryor, (Northwestern’s) Dan Persa or one of these scrambling quarterbacks, it seemed like every 3rd-and-long the quarterback would take off running, and everyone would be deep and you couldn’t do anything about it, they’d pick up the first down on their feet. So that was probably the least favorite play that we’d run.
What are some of the first things you do when you get on a practice field?
Usually I just try to stay excited. The thing about practice is a lot of people don’t get excited for it and it makes it something you don’t look forward to. Everyone looks forward to the games and the big stage but not everyone likes practice, but that’s one of the big things, you have to keep yourself motivated and make it exciting, get the other guys excited, have fun, so usually when I go out there I try stay upbeat or get loud, create an environment where people want to be there, and it makes it enjoyable, because nobody likes to go to a job that they don’t like. You make the day enjoyable and get your mind set so that you are trying to do your best that day because you have to get better that day.
What advice have you gotten about preparing for a pro career?
Basically people tell me to keep doing what I’m doing, keep working hard, and that not all 32 teams need to like you, only one has to like you for you to be successful. It’s tough to make a spot but if you find that team that likes you and you are a fit, you just have to keep working and know that there is always a guy trying to get that spot. So it’s about who wants it more and who is going to do the most work and who is going to prepare themselves the most.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about football up until now?
Probably that it’s meant to be fun. You play as a little kid because it is fun, and you keep playing in high school because it’s fun. When you get to the college level it becomes more of a business. You can lose the excitement and love for the game, or you can realize how much you love it, how much you want it in your life and how much you want to be a part of it. As a football player you only have a certain amount of years. Other guys can do their jobs their whole life, but you can only play football for a certain number of years and your body is done. For a lot of guys it’s hard to take mentally to know that they can’t do their job anymore, they can’t do the thing they love anymore. It’s not like basketball where you can still shoot hoops and play at the Rec with other teams. In football once you’re done you’re done pretty much, your body can’t take it. There aren’t too many adult football leagues that you can be in or you’d want to play in. So it’s enjoying the time, enjoying the moment that you have, enjoying your body and living it up. At this point it’s so serious and it’s so competitive, if you don’t love what you are doing, there’s no reason to be in it, and you’re going to be miserable. The workouts are way too hard, the days are way too long and the meetings are way too boring to not love it.
Describe yourself off the field: What is your attitude like, what sort of activities do you enjoy? Are you active on social networking websites?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter and all that. I’m a big movie and music guy, I love music and movies. I love Netflix. It’s a great invention, great idea. I just got into video games recently, I was never a big video game guy. I just play FIFA and Call of Duty, those are my two games. Other than that I don’t play too many video games but I’m a big movie guy, big music guy, and I watch a lot of History Channel, a lot of National Geographic, Discovery Channel, those are probably my three main channels that I flip through, learning a lot about history and stuff like that, it’s all interesting to me.
How do you attract attention of NFL teams if you aren’t at the “combine”?
Basically get your film out there. Once they see your film they probably know who you are and that’s what they are going to judge off of. Having a good workout only helps you (a bit) because at this point they aren’t going to draft you or sign you off your workout, they’re going to go off the game film, and your workout is a secondary judgment. Having a good workout at the pro day with the coaches that are there and having an agent that is willing to work for you and getting your game film out, working once you get on a team, from that point it’s all up to you.
What makes you think you can succeed in the NFL?
I would say that I’m a football player. It’s in my blood, it’s in my head. I can’t go a day without football. In my mind everything I do I want to be the best at, and there’s never been a day in my life when I’ve been satisfied with another guy being better than me at football. It’s one of those things where I don’t know what else I would be doing if I wasn’t doing football. I’ll do anything to be better at football. This is what I want to do, just like other people with other professions, this is what I want to do, and in my mind, I can’t ever see myself coming to the conclusion that another guy is better than me at football. If you were a lawyer you would not want to be the 17th best lawyer in the state, your goal would be to be the best lawyer in the state. It’s just one of those things where, if you want to do something, how can you be satisfied not being the best?
Could you look back and name anything about your football career to this point you are particularly proud of?
Probably one thing I’ve been proud of is that I’ve played in every game, which translates in my mind that I put myself in a position and played well enough to get in every game. I never got benched, I played since I was a freshman and once I started as a freshman, I never gave up my starting spot. I started every game from then on out, which was an accomplishment that I was proud of. I was two interceptions away from breaking the school record, and for a guy that wasn’t recruited very highly, and a lot of schools wouldn’t take a chance on, and to finally get a scholarship from a Big Ten school, almost breaking that school record was a personal moment for me that I look back on and cherish.
If you played baseball, and were stepping up to an at-bat, what would be your entrance music?
I’ve thought about this so many times, and it always changes. I’ve always wanted to be asked this in an interview. If I really had to give an answer right now, I’d say “On My Level” by Wiz Khalifa.
Special thanks to Brad Arnett, Nic Hansen and the staff at NX Level in Waukesha, WI. Visit www.nxlevelathletics.com/ for information on the work they do.