The player that was taken under Bo Levi’s wing is EWU’s second consecutive transfer from SMU
What Bo Levi Mitchell accomplished, Kyle Padron hopes to duplicate.
In an ironic twist in college football, Padron is Eastern Washington University’s second-straight transfer from Southern Methodist University, located in Dallas, Texas. The first was Mitchell, who led the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship, then won the 2011 Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Padron won Eastern’s starting position during preseason practices, and will make his first start this Thursday (Aug. 30) when Eastern plays at Idaho in the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. A week after, Padron will take on a Washington State team he helped defeat during his sophomore season at SMU. He passed for 280 yards and four touchdowns, with one TD rushing, in a 35-21 victory against Washington State on Sept. 18, 2010.
A 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior from Southlake, Texas, Padron was a 21-game starter at SMU where he passed for 5,902 yards and 41 touchdowns in his 24-game career. Mitchell was injured in the 2009 season at SMU and transferred to EWU after Padron secured the starting job mid-way through his freshman season. The same thing happened in 2011 to Padron, who suffered ankle and back injuries and was replaced in the lineup by J.J. McDermott for the final 11 games of the year.
Padron secured the starting job by going 5-1 as a freshman, as SMU’s late-season surge helped it beat Nevada 45-10 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Padron passed for a school-record 460 yards and two touchdowns to earn Hawaii Bowl MVP honors, then started all 14 games as a record-breaking sophomore (7-7 record).
After discussions with Mitchell and a visit to EWU last spring, he moved to Cheney this past summer. He edged out freshman redshirt Vernon Adams and junior Anthony Vitto for the starting job.
Mitchell, who is formerly from Katy, Texas, is now in the Canadian Football League seeing action for the Calgary Stampeders. Mitchell’s brother, Cory Mitchell, is currently a sophomore wide receiver at Eastern and now gets to catch balls from a fellow Texan who isn’t his brother.
That’s just another twist in the Padron-Mitchell connection.
You’ve been in a battle in preseason practices for the starting position -- how do you feel you are doing so far?
“It’s been fun. Vernon, Anthony and the other players have done a good job of helping me out from day one over the summer in workouts and throughout the entire training camp. It’s been fun to come out and compete with each other every single day. We push each other -- we’re all pretty fiery guys and we like to keep the tempo very high.”
Bo Levi Mitchell was also an SMU transfer and had a stellar career here. What was it like playing with him at SMU and following in his footsteps here?
“I remember the first day I got up to SMU and Bo immediately took me under his wing. A lot of times there’s a little bit of awkwardness between quarterbacks, just because there’s only one quarterback that will play. There was never that awkwardness between us. After he took me under his wing, I had a lot of success at SMU because of the things he taught me that some of the coaches couldn’t. I still keep in touch with him today and I’m grateful for the relationship we have.”
Are you ready to face the pressure of performing at a very high level because fans will have high hopes and expectations because of what Bo accomplished?
“You know expectations are one thing, but I don’t think anyone has higher expectations than me. I expect to come out here and perform and to move the ball. The expectations of other people are second to mine and what my coaches and teammates expect.”
You took over for him at SMU and he helped encourage you to come here. What have your conversations been like?
“We recently talked and he was just checking to make sure everything is okay and to see I’m picking up on the offense. I check to see how he’s doing too. He’s become the running quarterback up there at Calgary, so he’s experiencing something different. We talk now and then, and with his brother playing here, I get the scoop of how he’s doing and how their family is.”
What would you say is your biggest strength as a quarterback?
“I think I’m a good leader. I can motivate people, but also lead by example. I think that’s a big quality as a quarterback to get your teammates to follow you and want to go into battle with you. I’m excited to get out there to Idaho on Thursday and lead the troops.”
“I’d like to be able to get over things a bit quicker. When bad things and even good things happen in a game, you have to move on as a quarterback -- you have to have short term memory. I have to get better at that moving forward and to forget about things quickly whether they are good or bad.”
You will be throwing to three 1,000-yard, All-America receivers – Greg Herd, Brandon Kaufman and Nicholas Edwards. How will that impact you personally out on the field?
“I think the best quality about them is that they’re so unselfish -- they bask in each other’s glory. You see them doing the jump slap in the end zone each time one of them scores. They’re a good group of guys that can obviously play football. It makes my job easier to be able to just throw it up and one of the 6-3, 6-4 guys go up and get it.”
How do you feel you are adjusting to the offense?
“At first it was a little slow. I was taking classes and recently just finished. It was a little slow trying to study football and study accounting, which kind of hindered it. Over the last week and a half I’ve been really able to focus on football and now it’s really slowing down for me. I’m seeing things faster and getting the ball to the guys to make plays.”
If under heavy pressure, what do you most likely see yourself doing -- throwing the ball away, taking the sack or trying to scramble for yards?
“It depends on the situation. I would like to be able to pick up a positive play rather than throw the ball away and waste a play, but sometimes that is the best play you can make.”
If you weren’t a QB, what position would you love to play and why?
“That’s tough. I kind of consider myself an athlete, but a lot of these guys prove my theory wrong – they are way better athletes than I am. I think quarterback best fits me. But if I had to pick one I’d say receiver or maybe a safety.”
Being relatively new, is there a teammate who you have especially grown close to?
“I’ve tried to make a lot of relationships, not with just one person, but a lot of them. There are a lot of great guys on the team and a lot I still need to meet and sit down and talk with them. There are great guys like Nick Edwards, Kauf, Greg, all the rest of the receivers and all the guys up front – you have to be good friends with the offensive line because they are always protecting me. There are a lot of relationships I need to keep building and a lot I need to begin. I look forward to doing that.”
In professional football, which quarterback do you try to emulate most?
“I think the best one would be Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers is another good one. I just like the way Tom Brady is so calm in the pocket and delivers the ball whether there’s pressure or not. In big games or small games, he’s always consistent.”
What are some team and personal goals you want to achieve playing at EWU?
“Team goals always come first. I’ve been raised that team goals are more important than your own. So winning the Big Sky conference outright, that’s a big one for us right now. Beating Idaho and beating WSU would be huge for our program, not just for our team, but the entire school would feed off of that. Eastern got a taste of the National Championship, so that’s the ultimate goal, but we have to stay focused on the game this Thursday.”
What is a hidden talent you have not related to sports?
“I took a class at SMU called Movement, and you learn how to fence and you learn how to juggle. So I would say probably the best thing I learned was how to juggle. I can juggle basketballs, footballs -- if there was a talent show I could probably perform that a little.”
Who was your childhood hero?
“I’ve been raised in a good family and have been blessed to have great parents and good brothers always treating me right. Outside my family I always looked up to Nolan Ryan and Walter Payton. Obviously I was very young when they were playing, but you can go back and see just how intense they played the game, how they tried to perfect their craft and how they were very professional about the way they did business. I am trying to emulate that in everything that I do, and ultimately, I’m trying to glorify God in everything that I do.”
What is your favorite sports memory?
“There are a lot of them on the field, but I think the best thing about sports are the relationships you build with people. You learn how to get along with so many different people, especially for me coming from Texas. There are all these Washington and California people that I’m not used to being around.”