It’s not easy locating flaws in a football player who with one season remaining in his college career has been as much of an end-zone fixture as goal posts.
Franklin College split end Kyle Linville, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound blur responsible for rewriting portions of the Grizzlies’ record book, is also his own worst critic.
He’ll come up with something.
“I would say I have good hands, but sometimes I drop easy passes, so I’ve tried to improve my focus,” said Linville, owner of absurd career numbers, most notably his 3,317 yards and 39 touchdowns.
BETTER TO RECEIVE
Name: Kyle Linville
School: Franklin College
Position: Split end
Jersey No.: 2
Weight: 190 pounds
High school: Speedway (2009)
As a freshman: 31 receptions, 665 yards, 7 TDs
As a sophomore: 84 receptions, 1,226 yards, 11 TDs
As a junior: 85 receptions, 1,426 yards, 21 TDs
“And you can always jump a little higher and run a little faster. My goal is to go into this season in the best shape of my life, and I think I’m going to get there.”
A frightening proposition for no fewer than 10 defensive secondaries.
Linville’s 85 catches, 1,426 yards and 21 scores in 2012 are Franklin College records. The two-time All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference selection is the pacesetter among active NCAA Division III football players in career receiving yards (3,317) and touchdowns (39). Moreover, his 200 career receptions places No. 2 (his jersey number) at No. 3 in Division III among active players.
“The career records I guess are somewhat of a surprise,” Linville said. “One of the reasons I chose to go to Franklin College is because I would have a chance to play immediately.”
Linville arrived on campus in 2009 after graduating from Speedway High School. However, he sat out his freshman season after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot during preseason drills.
Originally thought to be a bad break, Linville’s injury proved the opposite. It allowed him to be part of the same incoming class as former Speedway teammate and best friend Jonny West, a quarterback whose pass-catch chemistry with Linville dates back to elementary school.
“Those guys, because they played together in high school, and even before that, have that Manning-Harrison thing,” said 11th-year Grizzlies coach Mike Leonard, referring to former Indianapolis Colts teammates Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
“They’ve done it so many times, they just know,” Leonard said. “Hand signals that are so subtle that I don’t even know what’s going on. I just let them do their thing.”
Leonard raves about the way Linville developed as a blocker last season. The goal now is convincing the senior that straight lines sometimes are the best way to get from Point A to Point B after wrapping his gloved hands around the football.
“He had that want-to when it came to blocking that was just amazing. Kyle does so many things well and is so coachable. He just gets it,” Leonard said. “But when he gets in a crowd he tries to out-juke people. I’m trying to train him to run straight more.”
Informed of Linville’s desire to cease dropping the ball on occasion, Leonard added, “I can’t think of one that he’s dropped, but I’m sure if Kyle dropped one it’s etched in his memory.”
Sure hands, crisp route-running and good speed are only some of the attributes Linville brings to the Saturday afternoons of late summer and early fall. According to West, it’s what’s above the shoulder pads that sets his buddy apart.
“It’s his intelligence, knowing where to be at all times,” West said. “Everyone out there, Kyle is the first guy they go to if they have a question. He’s obviously gifted athletically but mentally, as well.”
With the Sept. 7 season-opener at 11-time and defending Division III national champion Mount Union fast approaching, Linville is aware the Grizzlies have the talent and potential to be on the verge of something memorable.
Leonard’s program has secured three consecutive HCAC titles and five over the past six seasons. The Grizzlies advanced to the second round of postseason competition both in 2011 and 2012.
If Franklin College is going to take that next step, another superb season is needed from Linville.
“I try to be a playmaker. I’m definitely more of a speed guy than a possession guy,” he said. “If everyone stays healthy we’re going to have a productive year.”