By MILES GARRETT
The saying “never give up” is very popular among motivational speeches. But many of us know that never giving up is much easier said than done.
Newly signed Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Sloter doesn’t want to hear your excuses.
The priority free agent signee out of Northern Colorado University is one of the best underdog stories you will hear. At this point last year, Sloter was considering his future in finance as his time on the gridiron seemed to be coming to a close. In less than a week, he’ll be participating in the Broncos’ rookie mini camp.
The circumstances surrounding the young gunslinger are truly astounding.
At one point a sought after recruit in the talent-rich state of Georgia, Sloter saw his career take one unlucky turn after another.
He committed to play quarterback at Southern Mississippi University following a successful year for the Golden Eagles in which they finished 12-2. Sloter redshirted his freshman year and was slated to be the team’s starter, but his head coach was fired after an unsuccessful year and was replaced with Todd Monken — now offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Monken told Sloter to his face that he would not play quarterback for his team. But that didn’t stop him from seeing the field.
With a frame at 6’4, 215 pounds and a sub 4.5 40 yard dash (more on that later), the quarterback could play receiver too. And play receiver he did, even earning a starting job for the Eagles.
But adversity struck again. Sloter’s scholarship was taken away after being told the team didn’t need his position anymore and were looking to sway other recruits.
Distraught, the quarterback turned receiver, turned to a non-scholarship player for reasons out of his control, he decided to transfer somewhere that would give him a fair shot at his original position: quarterback.
He found that shot at Northern Colorado. But it didn’t come without more bumps in the road.
A mere two credit hours from graduating, Sloter found that some of his hours at Southern Miss didn’t transfer over meaning he would have to take summer classes, and an internship — hindering his chances behind center during spring and summer workouts.
You still with me?
Relegated to a backup role with the Bears, Sloter decided to stick with football for one more year. It was his senior year after all, and with an internship completed, and a 3.6 GPA to his name, his future was set regardless.
But that all changed Sept. 10, 2016 in a game against Abiline Christian University.
Bears starter Jacob Knipp crumpled to the ground with a shoulder injury forcing Sloter into action. The kid who had never been given a fair shot at quarterback finally got his chance.
408 yards passing and a Northern Colorado record, six touchdown passes later, Sloter resoundingly introduced himself to the world.
He would finish the season with 29 touchdown passes — a UNC single season record and only 10 interceptions. Not bad for a backup quarterback, eh?
You would think that things had finally gone in Sloter’s favor, but this story of a series of unfortunate events continued.
With a prototypical NFL frame for the quarterback position, it wasn’t far-fetched to think that he would resonate with some teams. His throwing velocity was clocked at 58 mph, putting him among the top three in this year’s quarterback class. His 40-time would have also ranked him above Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky.
But he never got a chance to prove it.
Sloter was forced to participate in a Northern Colorado pro-day that hosted strong winds, moving the prospects inside a basketball gym for their workout. The players even had to wear basketball shoes for their 40-times and had seconds added to their final runs.
Luckily, a day later, Sloter had the chance to venture to the University of Colorado’s pro day. Once again, with a chance at hand, he put on a show for the scouts, hitting nearly every throw asked of him.
Finally the teams came calling.
Fast-forward to day three of the NFL Draft and the Broncos gave Sloter a call as he was waiting with his friends and family in his Georgia home. The team told him to be prepared to be selected with their final “Mr. Irrelevent” pick in the draft. Moments later, they called back and told him they would select Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly instead.
How much adversity can one athlete face in a career? This tale of a series of unfortunate events is not over. In fact, it looks like it’s about to start again for Kyle Sloter as he begins competition with three other quarterbacks.
But with all the adversity this young prospect has faced, who’s to wager that he can’t overcome it again.
With all the uncertainty the Broncos have with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, not to mention the off-field concerns of Chad Kelly, perhaps Sloter make some noise this fall at training camp.
Maybe all Sloter needs is one more shot. A shot to prove that you should never, ever give up.