Presently, Brad Kayaa, the strong-armed and well-built signal caller from West Hills, California is one of the better known high school signal callers in the nation. Back in the beginning of spring, Kayaa, was just a relatively unknown prospect on the West Coast who hadn't even drawn all that much interest from Pac 12 programs. Now, the Chaminade College Prep quarterback is pledged to the University of Miami and he capped off a strong off-season by being named to the prestigious Elite 11.
It was a process that was three years in the making.
Helping him along the way was a familiar face to college football fans, Rudy Carpenter, the former Arizona State standout, who started the better part of three seasons for the Sun Devils from 2005 to 2008 and has spent time on the rosters of the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brad Kayaa Sr. explained to CanesInSight.com, "Somebody who Brad knew got a hold of Rudy and said, 'Hey, he's a kid you should probably be working with a little bit' and so Rudy called me at a certain point because he knew that Brad was a high-level player and had the good frame and a good body and had a good work ethic. I think he saw Brad play in a passing league so he called and we started talking and he said, 'Look, I'm a fair guy, I'm not going to over-charge anybody but there's certain kids I like to work with, kids that really want to work hard and I think he'd be great with me.' And you know what? It turned out to be a really great decision.''
Kayaa, who is entering his senior season at Chaminade, was familiar with Carpenter, who went to Westlake Village High School and led his squad to a 14-0 record in 2003 and the CIF Division II title.
"Rudy played football in the Southern Section, I met him my freshman year at a passing league. He talked to my dad and he just told him that he could form me into a highly touted quarterback by my senior year and he's worked with me a lot since then and he's really transformed me as a quarterback," recalled Kayaa.
When asked what the biggest influence that Carpenter has had on him, he explained, "Every quarterback coach has physical points that they can point out. Y'know, 'Here's a three-step drop, five-step drop,' a throw here, a throw there. Rudy's played the game and he's been in there before. He's been through high school, he's played college football, broke records, played in the NFL. So he's definitely been there before and having a guy that you can conceptualize information with and just really get in-depth about the mental side of the game with, I think it's really special to have someone who's already been there."
Carpenter, who's name is all over the Arizona State and Pac 10/12 record books, says of Kayaa's evolution, "Brad was the kind of kid who when I first got him at the end of his freshman year was about 6'1, maybe 190 pounds, real skinny kid. Not a ton of athletic ability, not a very strong arm, not very accurate, maybe a little unsure of himself. But over the years together with just an extensive program of throwing and doing a ton of footwork drills and also him getting older and maturing, it's been great to watch him turn into what I think is a top-five nationally ranked quarterback."
Being a standout golfer himself, Kayaa's father understood that personalized tutoring would be needed for such a specialized and competitive position like quarterback. When his son was eight he was told that he should consider private training. By the time Brad Jr. was 12, Ed Croson (who is now Kayaa's high school coach) recommended getting some form of one-on-one tutoring.
It's now a cottage industry, private quarterback coaching, and the likes of George Whitfield and Bob Johnson are household names in the football world. It's a big business and in an era when passing leagues and camps are expanding exponentially and recruiting is now a 24/7/365 affair, it's a competitive field for both the teachers and pupils.
So what separates Carpenter from the rest?
"I do a lot of the same stuff with a lot of my guys and the thing is a lot of quarterback coaches they want to keep their clients happy and all they care about is that guys go out there and do their own workouts and throw the ball, throw routes. I do a couple of things - and it's hard to explain in a minute or two - but I always tell me guys, 'I believe quarterback play starts from the ground up.' What I mean by that is you see a lot of kids at the high school, college level who are in the spread offense, stay in the shotgun and just throw it," said Carpenter. "Which is why their games don't translate to the NFL. Nowadays, kids can't even take pass drops, a three-step drop, a five-step drop with a hitch. They can't do these drops because they've never had to practice it because they're in the 'gun so much.
"Now all of a sudden, that's like shooting a stationary jump-shot compared to going full speed running down the court with a stop-and-pop jump shot. It's much different. So I try to build my kids up from the ground up with their feet. Try to give them a great foundation to build on with their feet. Then I try to make my sessions uncomfortable. Meaning, I don't like to have them stand back there and throw the ball in shorts and a t-shirt. So whether I'm rushing them or I'm making them change their arm angle by holding bags or doing 'distraction drills' or throwing bags at them or whatever we're doing to make them feel some kind of duress when they're throwing the ball like they would in a game."
Carpenter believes a lot of guys can look like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a controlled setting.
"I try to put my guys in situations which are real throws in a game," he states. "Sliding in the pocket, moving in the pocket, and then we also do a lot of recognition as far as route combinations and then as far as blitzes and coverage recognition. And I go all the way down, we work on throwing screens, I don't even think quarterback coaches around the country work on throwing screens. But it's always that one screen that works, that's wide open, where the quarterback misses the throw. So for me, we work on every little last thing you can think off."
One thing that Carpenter has impressed upon Kayaa is that arm strength can be vastly overrated. Playing quarterback is every bit a cerebral pursuit as it is a physical one. "Definitely, it's more important to know what everyone's doing on the field or to already have a heightened sense of awareness, rather than having a strong arm or being able to run a 4.4 forty at the combine," said Kayaa, who has all the physical tangibles needed to play at the next level. "Playing quarterback is more than just having a strong arm. It's definitely played from the neck up. I mean people say today, 'Oh, we got guys like Michael Vick running around,' but still at the end of the day, you look at the quarterbacks who've won the majority of the last Super Bowls, they've all been really intellectual guys."
Kayaa Sr. said he noticed a change in his son, "Maybe after two or three sessions. Brad, already seemed to be more confident, a little bit more sure of himself and it wasn't just the mechanics. That was part of it, [but] it was the emotional side. I think that's what Rudy brings. Because he made it all the way to the highest level. He teaches his kids, 'You can do whatever you set you mind to do. You just got to work on it and really be serious about it and you quality over quantity.' Immediately, I saw a difference in Brad's attitude."
During his tenure in Tempe, Carpenter was a no-holds barred, straight shooter; which at times alienated the Sun Devil fan-base. He was blunt and honest and nothing has changed as an instructor.
"He's straight up about everything, he's not going to lie to you," said Kayaa, who completed 126 of 186 passes in his junior campaign for 1,875 yards and 12 touchdowns, with just two interceptions. "He's not going to baby you about anything. He's going to tell you straight up; like what you need to work on or what a college might see in you. Rudy's a guy that will be straight up with you or he's not going to lie to a coach for you."
Back in February, Kayaa and Carpenter embarked on stirring up interest among the major programs across the country. True to form, Carpenter wanted to show everything- warts and all- and used his network of connections he has made throughout his playing career to spread the word. Carpenter had Kayaa go through what was essentially a pro-day which they filmed.
"The evolution of recruiting in today's work is different," explained Carpenter, who has gone through this process as a player. "A lot of college teams are using a website called HUDL.com ( http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1269507/brad-kaaya
), where they get a lot of kids off of there. They're using Rivals and Scout.com. These Nike combines and all this stuff. For Brad, with my playing career and being able to play in the NFL I've met a lot of coaches along the way and Brad did a good job in just answering the phone, being in touch with certain coaches and making sure he was responding. Brad said he thought the University of Miami had interest in him so I contacted the offensive coordinator (James Coley) and we basically made what I consider a pro-day style workout. And I created a video and I sent it out to a ton of coaches around the country and a ton of coaches responded to me fast. A ton of coaches were really excited about Brad and Coach Coley over there at Miami just happened to be the most excited."
This video showed every throw Kayaa made during that session. Even the ones that hit the ground.
Carpenter explained, "There's a strategy for me to do that and why I say that is because a lot of times you go on YouTube or wherever; you go to see these highlight videos and all it is is highlights. It's not a full game and especially at the quarterback position you see guys running and making throws and you can make anybody look good in a highlight video. What I wanted to show with Brad is, 'Hey, you're getting a guy who's 6'4, right now, who's 220 pounds, right now. You're getting a guy who has an incredibly strong arm. You're getting a guy who has good feet and is smart.' But, I also wanted to show that this isn't a highlight video. You're going to see this guy overthrow a comeback. You're going to see him under throw a go-route. You're going to see him work some movement drills in the pocket. You're going to see him throw three to six to ten balls on the run and he might complete eight of those balls and miss two.
"So I wanted these coaches to see that this is a real good guy; that if he threw 50 balls in a workout, that he was going to go 45 for 50 or he was going to go 42 for 50 and it was real. It wasn't something that was fake. They weren't going to be deceived in what they were getting and I think that happens a lot in recruiting today. Which is why you see a lot of guys flop. That's just my opinion."
There's a saying in recruiting: highlights get you recruiting letters, game film gets you scholarship offers.
"That goes with (Rudy) not sugar-coating anything," stated Kayaa."He's not going to cut up some video where it looks like you're just on all the time. At the same time, it also lets you know that you have to come with it. Bring your A-game, really focus. Treat it like it's a pro-day."
Miami liked what they saw and soon it was Coley, who took over the reigns of the Hurricane offense from Jedd Fisch (who took a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars in January), who came a calling.
"It definitely took me by surprise. I've always grown up as a Miami fan," said Kayaa, who is now listed among the top players in the country. "I had no idea they recruit all the way out in California. I expected that only Pac 12 schools or Big 12 schools would come out to California. But it definitely took me by surprise to find out that a school all the way out in the ACC was interested in me."
(Part 2, Kayaa talks about his commitment to 'the U')
Carpenter is just 27 years old but he is already looking ahead to the next stage of his life beyond his playing days. The work he does with Kayaa on a part-time basis is something that could become his full-time vocation, eventually.
"Yeah, I was fortunate enough while I was playing to be around a lot of great NFL players, from Tony Romo to Jon Kitna, to coaches who played, as well, guys like Jason Garrett, Wade Wilson, Alex Van Pelt," he says. "I've been able to be around a lot of these guys. I mean, Joe Montana, Erik Kramer, Kurt Warner, I've been able to get a wealth of information from these guys and for me, right now, I don't want to do the whole college or NFL coaching thing. So it's a great way for me to stay involved in the game. It's great for me to help develop these kids and I feel I can create or foster an environment for these guys to learn as much as they can and learn about the position and they can learn from someone who is qualified with their resumé- not like most of these guys who say that they have a resumé."
He says he has an open door policy as far as who he will work with. You don't have to be a future blue-chip All-American to pique his interest.
"I like working with kids of all backgrounds. Kids who come from nothing, kids who are in the middle class, kids who are affluent, who can afford it. I just like to give these kids the knowledge that I didn't have when it comes to playing the game of football, playing quarterback. But I keep my rates where they are ($100 for an hour) for a specific reason because I don't want to turn anyone away because they can't afford it. I have kids I train for free but in return I make them catch balls for me. And I think that's fair and if you ask me, that's how I think society should be. Nothing should be free in this world.
"I value the time I spend with these kids, I learn a lot from them. I think it's really fun."
While an hour session doesn't seem long, Carpenter points out, "When you're one-on-one by yourself, an hour of throwing, you can get a lot of throws in one hour and with me. You're going to get a lot of throws. You're going to be dead tired because we're going to do an assortment of drills."
Carpenter, has around 20 clients in Southern California (where he uses his old high school field at Westlake Village) and another 15 in Arizona (who he puts through the paces at Chaparral High).
But he hopes that he can extend his NFL career. Carpenter, who came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2009 with the Cowboys, before spending a few seasons in Tampa Bay, has had some bright moments in the pre-season but has never gotten an extended look as the games began to count in the standings.
This past off-season he worked out for the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Training camps will be opening up soon across the league.
"Basically going into my fifth year in the NFL, a lot of teams are just waiting to see what their younger talent is going to do. Guys they drafted or guys they brought in as undrafted free agents. A lot of the NFL teams want to see if they can get a guy they can pay a lot less money than you've got to pay a guy like me who hasn't played much in the regular season. So I have to wait ‘til training camp, wait ‘til even the beginning of the season to wait for these teams to make their evaluations on their young guys and then hope that a team brings me in."
Carpenter, who was ranked as the 20th quarterback coming out of Westlake Village by Rivals.com and was named a PrepStar Magazine All-American, knows all about recruiting rankings and what goes into them. He believes that they are based just as much on politics then actual player evaluations.
"I don't think there's any question about it," he says, without hesitation. "Recruiting nowadays and the whole Nike camp, U.S. Army All-American games, the Cal-Florida games, combines and the Elite 11 stuff, there's no question it's the most political stuff, ever. I mean, lets be real here, and I'm not trying to knock anybody, but just look at Brad's situation. I would say this January he was the 50th ranked quarterback in the country. Then all of a sudden, he gets an offer from Miami, commits to Miami and he jumps to the top ten.
"Well, he hasn't played a game, yet. He hasn't played a game between January and now. What has he done to show that he's gone from fifty to ten? Fact of the matter is really just some circumstantial things. I just think that kids who may not have the money to do the private training, may not have the money to have a HUDL account, may not have the money to do strength training, are slipping through the cracks."
- Steve Kim is an avid Hurricane fan and he runs his own website at www.Maxboxing.com
where he covers the sport of boxing. He can be reached [email protected]