His college basketball career ended last March, but Kyler Kinnamon still has a competitive itch that needs scratching.
After four years as a point guard for Fort Hays State, Kinnamon found a worthwhile way to extend his time as a college athlete, joining the Fort Hays State football team as a wide receiver.
In addition to being one of the best basketball players in the state at McPherson High School, Kinnamon was also an accomplished football player for the Bullpups. He said his passion for football was reignited after recently watching his younger brother, Jace Kinnamon, excel on the gridiron.
“It was kind of a gradual thing,” Kinnamon said. “A lot of it was sitting back when I was watching my little brother. He was having a really successful year back at Mac high. I just was watching him and was like ‘Man, I really miss that a lot.’
“I did a little bit of research and figured out a way that you get an extra semester or two of eligibility. I said, ‘Heck, I might as well (play football) if I don’t have anything else to do.”
He started cutting his teeth with the Tiger football team last spring.
“I was lucky enough to come out here and learn quite a bit in spring ball and stick around here all summer and learn a lot then,” said Kinnamon, now a graduate student at FHSU. "Coming into fall camp, I knew a lot of the offense. And then (FHSU quarterback) Chance (Fuller), and all the other receivers and (receivers) coach (Al) McCray have been great, helping me learn everything. It’s been hard at times, but I think it’s coming together pretty well.”
Tiger coach Chris Brown said Kinnamon’s competitive nature and work ethic made him a welcome addition.
“He’s just a competitor,” Brown said. “He works every single day. Great kid, learns more every single day. It’s hard to be a wide receiver, there’s a lot of different things that go into route running, catching the ball — the ball's a little bit different shape than what he’s used to. He’s doing an excellent job for us.”
Kinnamon, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, is expected to add additional depth to an already deep receiving corps and is expected to help the Tigers on special teams.
“However I can help the team, whether it can be on special teams or backing Biebs (Layne Bieberle) or (Andrew) Jay up, or any of those guys,” said Kinnamon, an honorable mention All-MIAA basketball pick last year. “Whatever I can do to help these guys out.”
Brown said Kinnamon can be an asset in any role.
“He’s just an athletic kid that gets things done," Brown said. "And he listens — that’s the most important thing. He’s out here still learning but he listens and makes sure he does the right things to get himself on the football field. I’m excited to see what he does on Thursdays and Saturdays for us.”
Kinnamon said he’s enjoyed the challenge of gearing up for MIAA football.
“It’s a lot more physical out here,” Kinnamon said. “You’re in the sun a lot more, practice is a little longer, you’re dealing with the elements. But it’s been awesome. Really fun. I love these guys and I’m having a blast with it.”
He steps into a program that is 20-4 in the last two seasons with back-to-back MIAA championships.
"It was a really big plus for me to see what a championship mentality is like — not to say that we didn’t in basketball,” Kinnamon said. “But they’ve proven that they have success and just seeing how they approach practice every day is fun too.”
Asked if any of his fellow receivers could make the switch to basketball, Kinnamon said he wouldn’t be surprised to find out any of them have skills on the court.
“I think Biebs was a pretty good basketball player back in high school (at Central Plains),” Kinnamon said. “But I bet about all of them could (play basketball). They’re all pretty good athletes. It’d be fun to see them try.”
The Tigers will open the season Sept. 5 at Central Missouri.