MOBILE, Ala. — Kyle Lauletta knows a thing or two about distinguishing the real deal from impostors. Lauletta, Richmond’s senior quarterback, did a marketing internship for a company that manufactures synthetic diamonds. His job centered on determining whether or not consumers could spot a difference and how that affected the price they would pay.
This week in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl, Lauletta has been out to prove to NFL scouts that he’s the real deal as he works toward being drafted in April.
“I thought I was pretty good in the red zone all week, which is big,” Lauletta said after Thursday’s final practice before Saturday’s game. “One of the things, I thought I had to move a little better in the pocket. I was getting sacked, and maybe the line didn’t block a certain guy that they were supposed to, but I can still slide out of the way. I’ll look to do a better job of that come Saturday.”
Jeffrey Carlson, an assistant professor of marketing at Richmond’s Robins School of Business, said that drive to do more was a hallmark of Lauletta’s work during their time together.
“He doesn’t want to just know something,” Carlson said. “He wanted to know what was exceeding expectations, and that’s where he wanted to be.”
Carlson said Lauletta approached him about doing a summer project that would stretch the bounds of what he’d already studied. That sounded familiar to Lauletta’s football coaches.
When Richmond hired Jeff Durden as its offensive coordinator after the 2016 season, the first player to reach out to him was Lauletta.
“That tells you a little something about his character and his love for the game,” Durden said.
Durden would be Lauletta’s fourth offensive coordinator in his four-year college career. Durden put Lauletta, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound Exton, Pa., native, in a no-huddle, up-tempo spread offense. Lauletta was coming off a torn ACL in his right knee, an injury he suffered in the final regular-season game in 2016, forcing him to miss the Spiders’ FCS playoff run.
Lauletta didn’t get to practice in the spring as he rehabbed from surgery, but he learned Durden’s playbook and worked hard to study the offense and get “mental reps” from the sideline.
In his first game in the new system, Lauletta — whose father, grandfather, brother and uncle all played college football — passed for 546 yards and five touchdowns in a loss to Sam Houston State. He ended up passing for 3,737 yards with 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for the 6-5 Spiders.
“Student of the game,” Durden said. “I make fun of him all the time. He’s got this little brown notebook. He looks like a reporter. He’s always got that notebook with him. When you tell him something, he’s going to write it down and have it.”
This week in Mobile, Lauletta’s notebook is blue, not brown. It’s one he started using after the season, covering all his predraft work.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s NFL draft expert, said Lauletta could be picked as early as the third round, which would make him the highest drafted Spider since running back Barry Redden went in the first round of the 1982 draft to the Los Angeles Rams.
“I always carry a notebook around wherever I go,” Lauletta said. “A lot of times, coach Durden would have to tell me to put the notebook away. He likes guys listening. He’s like, ‘I’m going to teach it to you. Don’t take notes.’ But I’m a guy who’s kind of a visual learner. I like to have everything written down. Like to have it neat and organized, so notes is definitely a big part of my game.”
His teammates and coaches this week in Mobile have picked up on that.
“He’s sharp,” said Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert, who is on the South roster with Lauletta for Saturday’s game. “He cares about the details of the game.”
And for some NFL team, he may prove to a diamond in the rough after the draft.