The Interstate 25 corridor in the middle of Larimer County is a curious place to advance a professional football career.
The mixture of field crops, strip malls and fairgrounds does little to inspire images of NFL highlight clips. But for Kyle Kaiser, the odd corner of the map is the next rung up the ladder.
The receiver who used to burn up high school football fields for Broomfield High School is now lending his speed and hands to the Colorado Ice. And with a little luck, Kaiser is hopeful he can catch more than passes with the Indoor Football League team.
If the opportunity presents itself, the receiver also aims to grab a few scouts’ eyes.
“I’m just trying to continue my dream,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser makes no bones about it. The ultimate goal would be a chance to try out with an NFL team. But he said he would be just as happy perhaps getting a crack at playing in the Canadian Football League or for an Arena Football League team.
While Kaiser understands it is going to be an uphill climb out of the backwaters of the game, he has made headway. Kaiser has an agent who is compiling a highlight reel to shop around. And the receiver is doing his part, already providing some good playing footage.
Four games into the Ice’s season, Kaiser is his team’s top receiver and one of the top ones in the IFL. After the Ice’s 37-33 win over the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Storm Sunday at the Budweiser Events Center, Kaiser had 209 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Dillon Sanders expected nothing less. Then again, the Ice offensive coordinator had the inside scoop on the receiver.
“I’ve known Kyle since high school and knew he’d do well in this league,” the former Centaurus High quarterback said. “When he came back to Colorado, he was somebody I had to reach out to.”
Sanders has had luck moving players to the next level from the Ice. The coordinator has had players move on to CFL, UFL and even NFL teams. One of the coach’s greatest success stories, he said, was helping Mario Henderson back to the NFL.
“He got lost in the NFL lifestyle,” Sanders said. “The offensive lineman had gotten into some trouble during the (2011) lockout and had gotten out of shape. When he reported to us, he was 6-foot-6 and 400 pounds. But within three weeks of working out and playing with us he got a contract with the San Diego Chargers for the 2012 season.”
Kaiser had done plenty to add to his football pedigree before landing with the Ice. His senior year at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, he was a Harlan Hill Trophy finalist. And then soon after graduating in 2011, he showed his moves in a European football league.
Kaiser helped the Vienna Vikings to an Austria Bowl championship and to the finals of the Euro Bowl. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it did not afford the professional scouting opportunities Kaiser hoped for.
“I really believe that I have a better shot with the Ice,” he said.
Kaiser also has a chip on his shoulder about making the pro game, believing his is making up for missed opportunities.
Kaiser ran track at Kearney his senior year in a bid to build his speed for a run at the pros. He did that, breaking the school’s 100-meter dash record. But his plan backfired, with Kasier pulling his hamstring at the very end of the season.
It could not have come at a worse time, coinciding with a NFL Pro Day at the Air Force Academy he planned to attend. Worse yet, it also came in a season when it made it difficult for a small-school player get a shot a free agency — the 2011 NFL lockout.
“I felt cheated that I had missed my chance,” Kaiser said. “Made up my mind then I was going to make my own shot at the pros.”
Kaiser is driven to make it to the top of his game, but he is also realistic about making it to the highest level of play. The NFL might be his ambition, but if a pro roster is not in his future he won’t be devastated. Kaiser aims to leave everything on the field when everything is said and done. If he does that, he is certain he will have accomplished plenty.
“I want to play up to my full potential,” he said. “If I do that I won’t have any regrets.”
Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.