Scottsdale Saguaro High School senior quarterback Kare’ Lyles knows what it’s like to overcome odds stacked against him.
His father, Kevin Lyles, was a tight end at the University of Wisconsin from 1992-97. Kare’ Lyles grew up with the sport and aspired to play quarterback from a young age.
Back home in Madison, Wisc.,however, quarterback was not a role Lyles could naturally step into.
“I couldn’t play until fourth grade,” Lyles said. “There was a weight limit too, so I had to be a lineman.” The league set a weight limit out of safety concerns, making bigger kids play on the line, Lyles said.
It wasn’t a position he was particularly keen on, but it didn’t stop him. After four years of playing lineman, Lyles was able to take on the role he had been working toward.
“Throwing my first touchdown pass in eighth grade – when I could play quarterback because I made the weight limit – is definitely my favorite memory,” Lyles said.
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He moved to Arizona in 2012 when his mother received a faculty position at Arizona State University. It was then that Lyles found himself in the backup quarterback position at Saguaro High.
The adjustment to football in Arizona wasn’t easy at first. But having his younger brother, Kayden, a junior lineman for Saguaro, on the team made the adjustment easier, Lyles said.
The two have been playing football together since they were in the pee-wee league back in Madison. Both said they have a close bond and always try to be better than the other.
“We compete on and off the field,” Kayden said. “We always try to see who can get the best grades.”
To further his football skills after the move, Lyles worked with a quarterback coach and speed trainer prior to his sophomore year to help him develop and become more versatile. Additionally, having Luke Rubenzer, now a quarterback at the University of California, as a mentor in the starting quarterback position helped fuel Lyles’ mentality as a backup, Lyles said.
“I learned what he did and kind of did what I could to put it into my kind of game,” Lyles said. “I knew I had to work hard and prepare myself for when I was the automatic starter.”
The coaching staff at Saguaro recognized Lyles’ talent from the beginning, placing him in varsity lifting sessions and practices and working with him to help him prepare for his starting role the following season.
“He worked hard in the weight room, on the track and in the classroom,” said Jason Mohns, Saguaro head football coach. “All the little things that we ask our captains and our leaders to do as far as being a complete student athlete, he really stepped into.”
Lyles’ hard work showed when he stepped onto the field his junior year. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound quarterback finished the 2014 season with a 72 percent completion rate, including 40 touchdowns and four interceptions, as he led his undefeated team to a state championship.
Despite the notable season, Lyles went into the spring with only five college offers, including Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Florida and Wisconsin.
“Once Wisconsin offered, I knew I really wanted to go there,” Lyles said about receiving his first offer letter in March. “They were the first team to believe in me. That was a special moment.
“When I took my visit I really got a grasp of what the coaches were like, what the facilities were like, and it became even more like home.”
Being committed to a university prior to his senior year hasn’t impacted Lyles’ mentality for this season. It’s made him want to work harder and to arrive at Wisconsin in the spring prepared.
“Going through every single game like it’s a college game is the advice [Texas A&M wide receiver] Christian Kirk gave me,” Lyles said. “I probably worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in the offseason and I’m very focused right now.”
Lyles’ work ethic isn’t just noticed by the coaching staff. His teammates see how hard Lyles works as well.
“He always thinks about football,” senior wide receiver Byron Murphy said of his friend’s work ethic.
Lyles isn’t just a hard worker on the field. The senior has maintained a 3.9 GPA and will graduate in December to start furthering his education with a major in Psychology at Wisconsin beginning in January.
Earning his position on the Wisconsin football team, though, isn’t the end goal.
“Going into sports psychology or being an analyst at ESPN, there’s so many things that I have goals to be,” Lyles said. “The ultimate goal though, is being the best football player I could ever be. I know what my potential is and I know I can be great wherever football takes me.”