INDIANAPOLIS – In an interview room that also included Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield and the top-rated wide receiver in the draft, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Kyle Lauletta was drawing his fair share of media attention.
Nearly 20 reporters were wedged around a table interviewing the University of Richmond quarterback and Downingtown East product Friday at the NFL scouting combine.
All but two or three of the reporters were from media outlets in Boston where everyone seems convinced that Bill Belichick intends to draft Lauletta next month and make him the latest heir apparent to 41-year-old Tom Brady.
Of course, no one – and I mean no one – really knows who Belichick might have in mind as a replacement for Brady’s previous heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers last October.
But the draft still is nearly two months away and it would be poor form for reporters to admit that they don’t have the foggiest idea who their team is going to take. So, we try to connect the dots and/or make wild guesses.
The truth is, few people in Boston even knew who the hell Lauletta was before he outplayed Mayfield and one of the draft’s other top quarterbacks, Josh Allen, in the Senior Bowl in late January and was named the game’s most valuable player.
“He opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl,’’ NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He went from an afterthought to somebody that could legitimately be a third-round quarterback.’’
There are a bunch of reasons people think Lauletta could be the apple of Belichick’s eye. Some are pretty lame. Like the fact that he almost played lacrosse in college when no FBS schools saw fit to offer him a football scholarship. And Belichick, a former lacrosse player himself, loves the game.
Like the fact that Lauletta’s dad Joe played quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy in the late ’80s when Belichick’s father Steve was on the coaching staff there.
But mostly, the Lauletta-to-the-Patriots rationale mainly has to do with the similarities between Lauletta and Garoppolo. Both hail from FCS schools (Garoppolo played at Eastern Illinois), both are about the same size – 6-3 and 220ish. Both are similar type quarterbacks. Neither has a big arm, but both are heady players with quick releases and excellent accuracy.
“Accuracy is something you can’t teach,’’ said Lauletta, who completed nearly 65 percent of his attempts last year at Richmond and was 8-for-12 for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the Senior Bowl.
“You either have it or you don’t. I’ve always had a good feel for where the receiver’s going to be. Not just putting it on the money, but anticipating those windows and throwing it before he breaks. I think that’s something that translates to the next level and is definitely going to help me.’’
Lauletta, who led Downingtown East to the Chest-Mont League National Division title his senior year, had just two FBS scholarship offers – from Toledo and Old Dominion. He ended up enrolling at Richmond, where he already has earned degrees in business and marketing and leadership studies.
“Richmond ended up being an outstanding place to go.’’ He said. “I got a world-class education. I got an opportunity to play CAA football, which is very competitive. There have been plenty of guys that have made it in the NFL from FCS schools.’’
Lauletta, who started 40 games for the Spiders, played for four different offensive coordinators in four years. Somehow, he still managed to finish his career as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (10,465) and touchdown passes (73). He was the CAA player of the year as a senior, throwing for 3,737 yards and 28 TDs.
While it was no picnic at the time trying to pick up a new offense every year, Lauletta thinks it will end up helping him in the NFL.
“It was a blessing in disguise for me,’’ he said. “As a quarterback, being forced to adapt and learn a playbook quickly. As far as [learning] new terminology, I’ve seen the same formations for four straight years be named four different things. The same goes with the passing concepts.
“That’s very similar to what’s going to happen in my transition to the NFL. So, having already been through that the past four years is great for me and already puts me at an advantage.’’
Lauletta played in pro-style offenses his first three years at Richmond, which will help him with his NFL transition, much like it did Carson Wentz. Last year, however, he played in a no-huddle spread offense that he had to learn while he was rehabbing from a torn ACL that he suffered late in his junior year.
“I wasn’t able to participate in spring ball, but I was out there standing behind the play,’’ he said. “I couldn’t do full-speed reps, but I was able to take the mental reps in my head.
“Mental reps are huge. It sounds cliché, but when you’re in the NFL, if you’re a backup or not the No. 1 guy, you’ve got to get better and you’ve got to improve somehow. So learning from those who are taking the reps and putting yourself [mentally] in that position, that’s what I did.’’
Lauletta would love to get drafted by the Patriots. But he has no more of a clue whether that’s going to happen than we do.
“That would be a dream come true,’’ he said. “I mean, any quarterback would love to be in that position. Learning from a guy like Tom Brady. You could learn so much just by the way he works and by observing the way he goes about his business every day.
“But I can’t even think about stuff like that. It’s really a waste of my energy to try to make the connections. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and try to put my best foot forward each day and try to impress the scouts as best as I can.’’