MADISON – Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst let his veterans go early Wednesday evening in order to run a couple periods of developmental practice with the scout team, invaluable reps for a younger player’s progression.
When that group departed roughly 15 minutes later, freshman quarterback Kare Lyles remained. He worked on his drop back, his throws and his accuracy on the run. Thirty minutes after his fellow scout team players were in the shower, Lyles was still out on the practice field working up a sweat.
Many players have the same work ethic to Lyles but few playing at the University of Wisconsin have it mean more to them than the 6-0, 214-pound freshman. Lyles was born in Fitchburg, just a couple minutes south of the stadium. His dad played for the Badgers and won a Rose Bowl with the program in the early 1990s, part of the reason why Lyles wears his dad’s No.9.
And combine the fact that a redshirt freshman quarterback is getting a lot of snaps this season with Lyles learning how to play from under center and missing all of spring practices with a hip injury, he knows he has a lot of catch-up work to do before the spring.
Asking 15 questions, we call this segment the Freshman Fifteen.
What’s been the hardest part for you adjusting to college life?
Lyles: Time management has been my biggest thing. You can probably go through the coaches’ offices and ask them the same thing. It’s having a balance every single day and trying to find a balance between school, social life and football. Sometimes I’ll overload on one thing and I’ll be out of balance. My day as a quarterback is a lot more hectic. I have 15 minutes between everything I do from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., so it’s finding a way to get the extra stuff in while still be on time for everything.
What’s been the hardest part adjusting to college football?
Lyles: Details. Honestly focusing on the little reps. I never would have thought when I was in high school and preparing for here that I would have to work on a punch step. It’s just details, details, details. The biggest thing for me is being under center. I haven’t taken a snap under center since my eighth grade year, which was my only time playing quarterback under center. Focusing on that and getting used to that and having the reps there has been important.
How did you prepare your body before coming to college so you would be able to step right in and start competing?
Lyles: Honestly I feel (redshirting) is a blessing in disguise. I go into a development lift and we are doing like an off-season training program. How I am preparing my body every single day is challenge myself to get better in the weight room, getting stronger with my lower body, especially with my left hip, and continuing to do rehab. I’m preparing as a starter until I get that opportunity next spring to actually compete. When I first came here January 26, I told myself to never take a day off and work your tail off. The work you put in, something is going to come out of it.
What do you think your strengths are right now where you can help this team and what your biggest areas of weaknesses?
Lyles: Strengths is just arm strength, now understanding the offense a lot more and I can make every single throw on the field. Weakness is still getting use to the pro-style offense. I don’t get as much reps because we’re preparing for an opponent every single week, so I don’t get as many reps as Bart and Alex. What I have to do is to find the little time after practice, find a young guy and work on a little thing in my game. After I get use to taking a snap, I have to learn to be more fast and more assertive with every single thing in my footwork. My goal for the bowl prep is to perfect the footwork.
How is Madison different than Scottsdale, Arizona where you grew up?
Lyles: Everybody asks me how the West Coast is different than the Midwest and it’s honestly a lot blue collar. That’s the number one thing. You’re going to work, work, work, and you never hear the guys complain. This is the best example. It’ll be raining four times a week and you’ll never hear a guy complaining that it’s raining here. In Arizona, every single time that it was so hot out, people would complain and it would affect them. Little things like that don’t affect people out here.
Do you have any idea what you want to study in college?
What’s your favorite place on the Madison campus?
Lyles: It’s got to be the Terrace.
What’s your least favorite place on campus?
Lyles: The Humanities building. You cannot find your class in there.
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when you get the chance to kick back and relax?
Lyles: Probably just go walk down State Street or to the Terrace. Just get away for a little bit, because this campus is so compact. You see the same thing over and over again, so getting away and finding a little me time. There’s some beautiful spots, so just find a place to get calm again.
Who are you living with this fall?
Lyles: A.J. Taylor. He’s a great guy. I love him to death.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learn about A.J.?
Lyles: Surprisingly we like the same type of music, which is totally out of my mind because I have the weirdest taste in music. I’ll put a song on and he goes, ‘oh, you listen to this?’ It’s weird because I’ve never been in that situation before.
Where does your biggest support come from?
Lyles: My mom and dad, obviously, but from here probably Coach Rudolph. I have a really strong connection with Coach Rudolph. Olive (Sagapolu) is like my big brother. Every single day we’ll talk. If I’m having a bad day and he’s having a bad day we’ll talk it out. It’ll be great once my brother (Kayden Lyles) comes here and all three of us we’ll be talking. I have a really good circle around me that supports me in everything I do.
What’s your parents’ reaction to you playing college football here, being on your own for the first time and starting your journey at this school?
Lyles: It’s been great. They moved up here to support me and are living in Verona now. They’ve been to a bunch of my games, so it’s been great.
From all of your scholarship offers, what made Wisconsin stand out from everyone else?
Lyles: Seeing that tradition. My dad always talked about the tradition is so strong here. When you are a little kid or a recruit, you can’t really feel it. Once you finally come here and you’re hear for a long time, you feel that tradition. You go down the hallway and see all the players and it’s like, wow, these guys were some tough dudes. They say tough, smart, dependable and they abide by it and they believe in it. You see the seniors making plays out on the field, you know they abide by those rules, too.
Considering your family’s strong history here, what was it like to run out of the tunnel for the home opener?
Lyles: Awesome. It was funny because when I did, I kind of had a picture in my mind that I was my dad. He always told me all those stories about when he came out of the tunnel and it was all these fans and all you see is just a sea of red. I remember when I was walking out there for the first time, I was probably 8 years old, and he was telling me that. Right when that happened, I got a picture of my dad because he wore No.9, I wear No.9 and it was like I was living the same dream he did.