MADISON - It started out as a joke between Kare Lyles and Dallas Jeanty in early November, two friends kidding with each other about how they didn’t know what they were going to do with the extra time off before officially enrolling early at Wisconsin in mid-January.
As the two continued to have fun with the subject, the joke eventually evolved into Lyles invited Jeanty to Arizona to spend time with him and his family. The two continued to mess around with each other about the idea until one day the idea made too much sense not to do it.
“We both knew we were going to be bored once we were officially done with high school, as there’s really not much to do,” Jeanty said. “Kare was joking with me on how I should come to Arizona and continue to build that bond and to work out with him. We just kept joking about the idea, but one day when I was telling him that I was just sitting on my couch, being fat as I was finishing up my paperwork for Wisconsin online and finishing up my classwork for my high school, that’s when he was like we should do it, you should come stay with me and my family.”
The good-natured teasing ended up with Jeanty taking two separate visits to Arizona, one to watch Lyles play three games on his run at winning his third straight state title at Scottsdale Saguaro. The second time Jeanty went to Arizona was after competing in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif.
“We spent a lot of time together talking about the future and how excited we were to get to Madison, said Lyles. “We are really excited to be on campus now, to get a jump on our classes and to start learning the playbook, but our relationship is special. We have gelled well together. We are both hard workers and both know what it takes to be a part of something special at the University of Wisconsin.”
Both rated three-star prospects by Scout.com, it’s fitting that Jeanty and Lyles represent the first two prospects officially committed to Wisconsin’s 2016 recruiting class – a class that will be officially announced Wednesday is projected to be the highest-ranked in the history of the program since Scout.com first started ranking prospects in the early 2000s.
Playing high school football at Fort Lauderdale (FL) High, Jeanty has competed against plenty of talented quarterbacks during his career. And while he may be biased, Jeanty said no quarterback he’s competed against rivals the skill set that Lyles brings to the table.
“Being from Florida I’ve seen good quarterbacks, four and five star quarterbacks, but Kare is the best quarterback I’ve seen live,” said Jeanty. “He’s the real deal. He has a certified arm. His junior year he was throwing it to Christian Kirk, and he was SEC freshman of the year at Texas A&M this season. Kare just does such a good job of putting the football where it needs to be in order for his teammates to make the catch. He doesn’t make mistakes, and if he throws an incompletion or an interception, he forgets about it. He can handle whatever is thrown his way.”
Another thing Lyles doesn’t lack is confidence, a trait that has been home grown. It started with his father, Kevin, who played tight end at Wisconsin (1993-96) and was on the program’s first Rose Bowl winning team. It continued with growing up competing against younger brother Kayden Lyles, now a 300-pound four-star offensive line prospect that is committed to UW's 2017 class.
Also when you come from a high school program that has won three straight state titles, the will to win is at an all-time high.
“He’s very focused,” Jeanty said of Lyles. “When he decides he’s going to do something he’ll do it, and he’ll die trying in order to succeed at what he wants to accomplish.”
Accountability is important to Jeanty, which is why he latched on to Lyles. Elected a captain by his high school teammates, Lyles took the lead on social media and group texts to help build a bond among all the committed prospects in the 2016 class. It’s caused him to emerge as one of the early leaders of the group.
“I can be the rah-rah guy, be calm, going to work every single day and try to be a role model by doing everything the right way, said Lyles of his leadership style. “I get my smarts from my mom and both of my parents have displayed to me what it takes to be an effective leader.”
“I try and keep up to date with how my classmates are doing,” he continued. “I check to make sure Pat (Johnson) is doing well with his rehab. I make sure everyone is getting their applications done and they are being completed. When spring practice does start I want the rest of the class to know what we are working on, so when they get to Madison, the transition is smooth and they can help right away.”
After becoming impressed with Lyles’ playing ability during the first trip out to Arizona, Jeanty’s second visit gave him a good understanding of his family and what to expect from during future Wisconsin practices.
“He’s a good friend, a good leader and if it ever gets serious I know he’ll be in my corner,” said Jeanty. “The second time I was in Arizona and we were training, he started to encourage me to remain focus and not get tired. He was saying, ‘if you play like that against (Leonard) Fournette he’ll run you over.’ I like how competitive we can get, as we know what to say to each other to continue to work hard.”
Their friendship started to form when Jeanty committed in June, and further intensified when tailback Antonio Williams de-committed, leaving Lyles without a roommate. They took their official visit the same weekend during Wisconsin’s night game against Hawaii, and the one common talking point between the two was continuing to build the tradition of Wisconsin football by taking the program to even greater heights.
“We just kept talking about on our visit, and when I was in Arizona, what great things we see at Wisconsin,” said Jeanty. “We love this recruiting class, and we really do believe we can do major things. We believe in Wisconsin football but we believe in what Paul Chryst is doing the most.”
How high does Wisconsin want to go? According to Jeanty, both he and his roommate believe they will have the teammates capable of leading Wisconsin to its first national championship.
“It’s just not myself and Kare, everyone wants to be great in this class,” said Jeanty. “It is a reason why we get along so well. Chryst and the entire Wisconsin coaching staff did so well of putting this class together. It’s like finding the long lost brother. We all love Madison to a fault and we know we can do major things if we continue to work hard. We know we won’t have the same success like the past successful Wisconsin teams have had if we don’t put in the time.”