Fully grown he was when he left Elkhart five years ago, but Kyle Magnuson needed to grow up.
It’s taken five years in the mountains out west to find himself. Now he wants to find himself a place on an NFL roster.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime shot and I have to take it,’’ said Magnuson, a 2008 Concord High School graduate. “You have to take advantage of every moment you have.”
Magnuson spent the last two seasons as a starting offensive lineman for the University of Wyoming in Laramie. In roughly seven weeks, he’ll show off his massive 6-foot, 7-inch, 329-pound frame for pro scouts. In three months, NFL teams will conduct their annual draft.
Resigned to the notion that he won’t be among the 253 players to be chosen in late April, Magnuson’s getting his body in ideal shape and absorbing as much knowledge as possible.
Scouts will see Magnuson’s size and strength. It’s difficult to not notice that.
Agility, flexibility and footwork raise NFL eyebrows. Game savvy often seals the deal, especially for post-draft free agent signees.
“The last offseason he became more of a student of the game. He learned how to watch film the right way and really helps give him a little bit of an edge,” said Jim Harding, one of Wyoming’s offensive line coaches who works mostly with tackles. “He understood defensive structure and that helped.
“The physical part he’s had ... he’s a legitimate 6-7 ... he’s progressed in the mental aspect and learned to use that size to his advantage.”
With a March 15 on-campus NFL pro day looming, Magnuson says he’s determined to use the extra window of workout time to get physically better. He knows all of the speed and agility coming his way — it’s nothing different from what he’s been doing with two other Cowboy players.
“I’ve been doing everything from yoga to weights to running to working on my stance,” Magnuson said.
Then there’s the weighty issue of his weight.
“I can gain and lose weight pretty fast,” said Magnuson, who topped out at 342 pounds after the season ended. On Jan. 11, he played in the second annual Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game in Tucson, Ariz. He says he down to 329 and hopes to get to between 315 and 320 for his NFL day.
“He’s a massive individual ... as big as he is, he is light on his feet,’’ Harding said. “He knows the exact tests. It isn’t a trick test. You have to run a 40, a short shuttle.”
Magnuson played in 25 games the last three seasons, starting 11 of 12 his senior season at right tackle. He’s also found himself lined up at left tackle and right guard for Wyoming. Harding thinks that though Magnuson is capable of playing an inside line slot, his size and strength, at least to most NFL set of eyes, dictates he play at tackle.
“Actually, body composition, he’s suited for more of a guard type right now,” Harding said. “But I know he played tackle at the all-star game and that may be because of his height.
“I told him that all-star game had to be good for him in terms of exposure. He was uncertain if he was in shape to play, but I told him he’d be foolish not to go to the game. Any opportunity to get in front of NFL scouts is huge. Kyle’s strength is playing. He’s so good, so powerful and the kid can pick it up. He doesn’t have to be told twice.”
In the classroom, Magnuson will finish up his sociology major and biology minor as he trains for an NFL look.
Harding says with all of Magnuson’s progress and seasoning on Saturdays, he’s much more impressed with the former Minutemen’s maturation away from the game.
“Kyle’s developed probably more so than most kids on the football field and off the field as well. Academically, he’s come a long way,” said Harding, who came on to the Wyoming staff with the school’s coaching change in 2009. Former head coach Joe Glenn was replaced by Dave Christensen, who just finished his fourth year, including two New Mexico Bowl appearances.
“He did a phenomenal job of buying in,” Harding said. “Any transition is difficult, but we really hold our kids accountable. Kyle initially wasn’t where he needed to be academically, but he worked hard and really developed into one of our better kids, one of our leaders.”
All Magnuson can ask for, he said, is a chance.
“I haven’t been told I won’t be drafted, but it’s been inferred. I’m definitely the underdog,” Magnuson said. “I’ll probably not be picked in the draft, which is fine, I guess. I just want the opportunity to show the NFL what I’m capable of and see if they agree.”