Uber-local Kyle Israel to ply football trade overseas
Published: Sunday, March 29, 2009
Updated: Sunday, March 29, 2009 18:03
Kyle Israel has always been a local boy.
The 23-year-old grew up in the city of Orlando. He made a name for himself as a quarterback at University High School and was recruited by schools such as Florida State and Mississippi State to play football, but he decided to stay local.
He accepted a scholarship to play football at UCF, a short 2.2-mile trek down the road from home.
So it will all be pretty foreign to him Wednesday when he boards a plane to Germany to start another chapter of his football life.
It's all a little overwhelming for a man who has only lived in one zip code.
"I am nervous, because I am from Orlando, have played college football in Orlando and I have spent a year after college football in Orlando," Israel said. "This is the first time that I have ever really moved away, and for me not to be moving away in America, but overseas, is something that is a little nerve-racking."
Israel, the Knights' 2007 Conference USA Champion quarterback, signed a seasonal contract early last week to play football for the Dresden Monarchs of the German Football League. It's a contract that will last from April 1 to the end of September and will pay around $900 dollars a week.
The season will begin on April 18, when he will start his first game at quarterback since the Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State back on Dec. 29, 2007.
The expectations are high for a guy who hasn't led a football team in more than a year.
"These guys train year-round, and I am jumping on their team and being expected to be in the top condition as well as kind of lead these guys to some type of championship, because that is what they expect, especially from a quarterback," Israel said. "I am going in as a starter, so there is really no room for error for me."
Since graduating from UCF in 2007, Israel has been focusing on his broadcasting career rather than his football one. He currently works for Bright House Sports Networks as a college football analyst and will be calling games for UCF next season when he returns from Germany in early August.
He had been exploring the option of getting into Arena Football, but the AFL has since gone bankrupt, leaving him with few options.
Monarchs head coach Gary Spielbuehler, who is originally from Los Angeles, found out about Israel after hearing about him through a combine he competed in last summer.
Spielbuehler then contacted peculiar sources for an opinion on Israel: Tulsa and Houston, his opponents in Conference USA. Once Israel found out about the interest, it didn't take long for him to decide that Germany was the best fit.
"It took about three weeks to a month to decide that I wanted to go," Israel said. "Once I said that, it just sounded better and better when I thought about it."
Israel's decision was helped out by a memory he had of that same combine a year before. He worked out with a former Washington University quarterback who decided to take an offer in Spain to play football. His experience helped Israel make the jump.
"He said it was the best experience of his life," Israel said. "He was over there for five months and he brought his wife with him and he was newly married. They lived in the basement of a mansion of the person that owned the team, and he said it was the coolest thing that he had ever done."
The day he arrives, he gets a physical, moves into his condo, meets his teammates and gets ready for a three-day minicamp that begins the following day. Assuming he is in Germany once his contract starts on April 1, he will have about than two weeks to prepare for an entire season.
"It's going to be kind of a whirlwind," Israel said of the day he gets to Germany. "[It's crazy] with meeting people, getting settled in my condo and kind of figuring out where I am living and at the same time kind of jumping into this season and really trying to develop the chemistry between people."
For not being in football shape the past year, Israel will be tested physically once he gets to Germany, but it's the mental part of the game he is most concerned with.
The situations of what to do at the huddle, what play to run, whether to pass or run and what the defense is going to do are just some of the questions that will be running through his mind as he hits the field.
"That whole thought process isn't something that is always there," Israel said. "Now, it will be a lot easier for me than it was in college to develop that because it's already developed. The mental aspect of the game and just my physical attributes that I bring to the table are really what I have to work on, and I only get about 18 days to do that."
One of the toughest transitions for Israel will be the language barrier. There are three other Americans on the team other than Israel, including his roommate Radko Zoller, who has talked to Israel about the challenges of having a language barrier.
"My roommate said there is going to be 80 percent of the guys that know exactly what you are saying and there will be 20 percent of the guys saying ‘what in the world is coming out of his mouth right now?' " Israel said. "There is going to be that disconnect, which I am going to have to get used to and break down and that's going to be my goal right away."
Israel and Zoller have been contacting each other the past month through Facebook and are gearing up for living together. Zoller has told Israel how anticipated his arrival in Germany is to the Monarch football team, and how high the expectations are for him as the American quarterback.
He said Israel has become somewhat of a celebrity, and that the team is very excited to have him. It's a situation where Israel is just excited to feel sought after.
"It's cool, because I haven't felt that in a while," he said. "That's always one of those things that kind of goes along with the game is kind of just having a feeling of somebody counting on you and having the feeling of somebody wanting you to be there. You always want to go where you are wanted and it's nice to be wanted."