As an undrafted free agent quarterback among the four QBs on the Broncos’ roster, Kyle Sloter might be assumed to be “a camp arm.”
But don’t tell him that.
Or do - but don’t be surprised when he proves you wrong because that is what he has been doing his entire football career.
So doing it again as a rookie in the NFL is just fine with him.
“Trevor Siemian wants to be the starter. Paxton Lynch wants to be the starter. I want to be the starter,” says the rookie out of nearby University of Northern Colorado.
Sure Sloter knows he’s not necessarily in contention for the starting job this year, but as a competitor on a team always aiming for greatness, he believes his mindset needs to be preparing to be the starter - whenever that may be.
“In my heart I know I’m good enough to start in this league, so my role is to prepare like I’m the starter so I can be ready when called upon,” Sloter says. “My mindset is that I’m the starter even if it’s not realistic.”
Name: Kyle Sloter
Height: 6'5" Weight: 225
Age: 23 Experience: R
College: Univ. of Northern Colorado
But Sloter knows perhaps better than anyone how realistic it actually is that at some point a backup - maybe even an undrafted one - needs to be ready to step in.
Sloter knows this, of course, because he has lived it repeatedly since his freshman year of college football. And there’s definitely precedent for some big-time quarterbacks - i.e. Warren Moon, Kurt Warner and more recently Tony Romo - earning starting jobs via an undrafted beginning.
Sloter first signed on at the University of Southern Mississippi where as a redshirt freshman he anticipated being named the starting quarterback for his sophomore campaign. A surprising 0-12 record that freshman season, however (after going 12-2 the year before), led to a coaching change. And that meant a new depth chart; Sloter was No 4.
So the 6-foot-5, 225-pound athletic quarterback moved to wide receiver just to get on the playing field. Two years at wide receiver with limited touches, Sloter stayed patient. But a new offensive scheme meant eliminating the third wide receiver/slot position - his roster spot.
Aiming to get back to QB, Sloter transferred to the UNC Bears just before his junior season. With limited time in the system, Sloter was once again slated for wide receiver and third-string quarterback. An injury to the starting QB later in the season meant Sloter was in. He threw one pass that season, and it was incomplete.
Sloter was given a chance to play the second half of the first game of his senior season in 2016, and he went 0-3. But his fate changed for good the following week when the starter went down with a shoulder injury.
This time, with virtually no playing time as a college quarterback, Sloter was ready. He completed 25 of 32 passes for 408 yards and threw six touchdowns while running for 41 yards and another score to lift UNC over Abilene Christian 55-52.
He also proceeded to set a slew of school records – 29 passing touchdowns in a season, six touchdowns in a game (twice, in fact), and 438 yards in a game.
“I’ve had a unique journey, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Sloter says, admitting that he’d be lying if he didn’t sometimes wish it had been easier. “But things happen for a reason, and I’ve never had it in me to give up. I just looked at it like more of a test God was giving me.”
Sloter, as well his father Daryl, believe that test is serving him well now in the NFL. Noting that the rookie “battled his whole college career” to play, the senior Sloter knows that experience is driving his son to work even harder now that he has a shot in the NFL.
“Now that he’s tasted it, he’s hungry as hell. I know how competitive he is, and he’s not going to make it easy on the Broncos to release him,” said Daryl, adding the “camp arm” comments are just locker room material for Kyle. “That stuff drives him.”
And the elder Sloter believes his son is going to turn some heads at training camp these next few weeks.
“I have no doubt he is going to shine if given a chance in preseason and training camp, and the Denver fans are going to be excited about what they see,” Daryl said. “He’s going to training camp feeling good about how he stacks up against the others, and it’s his job to prove to the coaches that he is worthy of a 53-man spot. He isn’t worried about anyone else but himself.”
Sloter and his fellow rookies began a three-day intro to training camp on Monday before veterans join them on Thursday.
The QB sporting the No. 1 on his jersey cannot wait.
“My goal is just to get better every day and be a different player at the end of the last practice than I was before,” Sloter says, noting the obvious desire to show good decision-making, complete passes, protect the ball and understand his responsibilities with the offense while he competes. “I have a good feeling about where I stand with the coaches and the offense.”
Broncos’ writer Andrew Mason noted Sloter as a “standout” during one of his OTA reports this earlier this spring:
“Rookie quarterback Kyle Sloter also showed some flashes, opening his day with a completion to Carlos Henderson in front of Taurean Nixon. He also showed nice touch on a perfectly-placed pass to tight end Henry Krieger-Coble during a team period. Sloter found his form later in practice, at one point completing nine consecutive passes during team and seven-on-seven periods.”
Having come from a pro-style offense at UNC where Sloter had to “take ownership of the offense” at the line of scrimmage, the rookie QB is feeling pretty comfortable with the Broncos’ offensive scheme so far (and his dad noted that Kyle “loves the offense.”)
“People talk about the speed of the pro game, but I haven’t really seen that speed,” Sloter says, acknowledging that he’s been going up against third-string defenses. “I feel like I’ve been mentally prepared for this already.”
Crediting his time at UNC as really teaching him “how to be a quarterback for the first time,” Sloter is obviously inexperienced when one talks about “years” playing the position.
But being moved to wide receiver as well as being forced to learn three different offenses while in college has its advantages when tasked with learning a new offense in just a few months.
“I think so, absolutely,” says Sloter’s father, noting that playing receiver has helped Kyle understand the importance of ball placement – when to throw it low or when to hit back shoulder - as well as a greater appreciation for receivers timing their routes for the success of each play. “I think he recognizes situations on when and where he can take a chance on the receiver making a play for him, as well.”
Former Mt. Pisgah star @KyleSloter is ready for the challenge of the NFL, here is his remarkable underdog story.... pic.twitter.com/C5r3KDV61d— Miles Garrett (@MilesMGarrett) July 24, 2017
For the younger Sloter, this versatility has also helped him mentally.
“I get asked about my inexperience a lot, and I always say that I’m not experienced at playing quarterback, but I’m very experienced at handling adversity, and I think it has really helped me,” Sloter says. “Some players go their whole careers in high school and college being told they’re the best and they will play right away, and they don’t know how to handle, ‘no.’ There are not a lot of football players who have handled more adversity on the football field than me.”
The adversity has given Sloter more confidence coming into the pro ranks, and so far he has been loving the new experience with the Broncos. Calling the rookie class a “tight, dynamic group,” Sloter hasn’t been shy about reaching out to older players to get whatever tips he can - especially from fellow quarterbacks Siemian and Lynch.
And despite the noise in the press about the “quarterback competition,” Sloter believes the quarterback room does a good job tuning it out and helping each other learn the new offense and make the team better.
“I want to start; we all want to start. That’s just our competitive nature,” Sloter says. “But at the end of the day, we are teammates and friends and we have to be there for each other.”
The new offensive scheme is particularly exciting to Sloter, an athletic gunslinger who clocked as the third-fastest passer (58 mph) and the second fastest quarterback (4.6 in the 40) in the 2017 NFL Draft class. And with a 38 on the Wonderlic - best of all Combine QBs - Sloter has enjoyed being a student of the new scheme.
“It’s not overly complicated but very well designed,” Sloter says, giving just a peek into the new playbook. “It’s very dynamic - a lot out of the gun, getting guys in the open field, letting your best players make plays. It’s fun to get in there and understand it.”
And working with Bill Musgrave and the entire offensive staff has been an outstanding learning experience for Sloter, who believes he’s already improved things like his footwork, timing, knowing where to put the ball when the defense gives a certain look and so on.
“He’s awesome,” Sloter says of the quarterbacks coach. “He brings a lot of knowledge having played and coached, and it’s fun for me to have them take a look at me and correct me. It’s been fun to bring how I’ve thought about the game to these guys.”
Taking things one day at a time, with one goal in mind. This one is for the people who told me what I couldn't do .— Kyle Sloter (@KyleSloter) May 27, 2017
As the rookie quarterback heads into the next two weeks of training camp and then into preseason, he’s nothing but excited about learning more and proving what he’s been proving his whole life - that he belongs on the field.
And the thought of “belonging” on the field at Mile High is perhaps the most exciting part. Though he’s grown up a Falcons fan (and can barely talk about last year’s Super Bowl), he cannot wait to don an Orange and Blue jersey in August.
With fellow rookie Chad Kelly still working back from injury, and Siemian and Lynch not likely to play the whole preseason games to avoid injury, Sloter is looking forward to some good minutes on the field.
“It has been a dream as long I can remember to be in the NFL, and it’s going to be cool to step out in a Broncos uniform with my name on it.”
Which part of Kyle Sloter’s game do you like the best?
This poll is closed
His competitive attitude
His approach to handling adversity on the field
His ceiling appears to be very high
Hey, doc likes him, so do I.
I’m kinda digging those state high school basketball records.
"Whorfin" (all of the above)