Ever since he spent time at the University of Wisconsin in April for the annual spring game, Kayden Lyles had a strong conviction of where he wanted to go to college. The junior offensive lineman from Scottsdale (AZ) Saguaro just was waiting for the right time to call Wisconsin offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph to tell him the good news.
Making his second visit to Wisconsin in just over two months, Chandler (AZ) Hamilton defensive tackle Garrett Rand was falling in love with the campus and the people with each passing second, realizing that he likely wouldn’t need to take his other official visits to find his perfect school.
Traveling home together and on a layover before flying home and going their separate ways, the duo – who didn’t know each other two days prior – decided to make a statement to the recruiting world.
“I was planning on asking him (if he wanted to commit) when we got back to Phoenix, but he asked me then and there if we just want to do it now,” Lyles told BadgerNation. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ We made the connection, I gave him my phone number and we started talking throughout the week.”
While it was a short, to-the-point conversation walking to an airplane, the ripple effects of both Lyles and Rand purposely announcing their commitments Thursday afternoon will be felt throughout the Badgers program for the next 5-6 years.
PLAN IN MOTION
Kare Lyles’ official visit was a family affair. The senior quarterback for Saguaro High School, Kare committed to the Badgers in mid-March and the decision was met with great excitement.
After all his dad, Kevin Lyles, played at Wisconsin from 1993-97 and was teammates with Rudolph on the Badgers’ first Rose Bowl winning team in 1994. Thrown in the fact that Kevin fell in love with his wife there and lived in nearby Middleton, the family always relished the opportunity to go home.
That included Kayden, who was doing more than tagging along. Having the idea that this weekend could be the one that pushed him to making his decision, Kayden was looking forward to meeting a large portion of the 2016 committed class during the weekend to see if the connection was there.
That’s when he met Rand for the first time, a four-star defensive tackle who played only 20 miles down the highway.
The two had known of each other, considering they were two of the best linemen on the West Coast regardless of class, labels that carried mutual respect. After his parents saw Wisconsin in the summer, Rand came on his official visit by himself, but his father reached out to Kevin Lyles and asked him to look after his son. The duo hit it off right from the start.
“When we got there, we actually had to meet each other for the first time, and we were basically alike,” said Kayden. “We act the same, we talk the same. That’s what really made the connection there. It just felt like family. It was the first time hanging out but it felt like we had been hanging out for years.”
As the two spent more time with the commits and with each other, it was evident that both were leaning heavily toward Wisconsin. Thinking this could be something special, Kayden kept saying “let’s just do it” to himself over and over again.
“I knew we would be playing across from each other, so it made sense,” said Kayden. “I kept it a secret (since May) but that’s when I really knew I wanted to go. After this trip I wanted to make it public. When I was with Garrett, we made a good connection. That’s when I knew we should do it and make this decision now.”
Kare Lyles was never really sure if and when his brother would follow in his footsteps. After all, Kare’s first and only offer was from Wisconsin back in the spring. Kayden’s offer list was a who’s who of college football, as schools like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC had all offered or were showing heavy interest.
But after seeing him interact with Rand, Kare believed something special could be on the horizon. He got the official word of the plan on Wednesday.
“We kept it as his decision, so it was always for him and what he wanted to make,” he said. “Him and Garrett got off pretty well on the visit. Having that connection and being around all the guys and getting to know those guys made it seem more like a family. You can’t really go wrong with that visit having 11 Wisconsin commits there. That was a big factor because it showed we are all close.”
The commitment calls were almost placed simultaneously to Rudolph and the UW coaches Thursday morning. Wisconsin staffers felt good about where they stood with both prospects but weren’t willing to write their names in pen just yet. The hoots and hollers around the football offices changed that.
“It’s a great school and I love it for what it is, for what’s there,” said Kayden. “I love the coaches, and I just wanted to start my own legacy there.”
Rand went first with his commitment on Twitter, announcing it at 3:46 p.m. Central. After letting the dust settle and the senior have his moment, Kayden sent the second shockwave at 4:53 p.m. Central
It’s the second time in just over three months Wisconsin landed a pair of four-star prospects on the same day. But while St. Petersburg (FL) Admiral Farragut Academy safety Craig Watts de-committed a month after announcing his decision on a campus visit, leaving his pact with Green Bay (WI) Bay Port offensive lineman Cole Van Lanen, and eventually committed to Colorado, there are limited worries here.
A FAMILY LEGACY
Kare Lyles has played football with his brother since they were on the fifth grade team as a fourth and third grader, respectively. Growing through the ranks, the duo have won countless games with Kare throwing the touchdown passes and Kayden doing the blocking.
Not only have they developed into two of the top players in the state, they’ve developed a tremendous drive to excel.
“There’s always somewhere to progress,” said Kayden. “I want to progress every day in my skill. There’s not one specific area. If I can focus on everything, that’s what I want to do.”
Just as exciting for the Lyles’ family than the boys following in dad’s footsteps and play for the Badgers is that their parents get to see their sons play for the school that is the foundation of their family.
“We always bled red and white since we were young, so there was no question that is was going to be one of the top picks for us in the future,” said Kare. “Going through the process and high school football, pretty much becoming the players that we are right now, we just want to go back home. We believe in the program and build a legacy of our own. It’s big shoes to fill, but we know what to do to get the work done.
“We’ve always had that connection. We’ve been through it all. With us always working together and training together, going to the next level where it’s now a job at this point, now we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves. That makes it more special."