WOODY: Richmond’s Lauletta has handled football, academics and a knee injury with rare success

November 16, 2017

The one thing Kyle Lauletta remembers vividly from his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery is lying on his stomach and having his leg lifted, bent and pushed toward his back.

“Every single day,” he said. “It’s extremely painful. It feels horrible. But it’s good for your knee to break up that scar tissue and get it moving.”

Lauletta, the quarterback for the Richmond Spiders, moved forward very quickly after suffering his knee injury. On Nov. 19, 2016, he dropped back to pass, found no one open and took off running in the regular-season finale at William and Mary.

“I ran for about 10 yards, made a move on a guy in the secondary, but my right cleat stuck (in the turf), and when I went to cut, it was too much pressure on the ligament and it tore,” Lauletta said.

With the tear went Richmond’s chances of winning the game, gaining a bye for the first-round of the FCS playoffs and competing for a national championship.

Lauletta is that good and that valuable to the Spiders.

Of even bigger concern was the effect the injury would have on Lauletta for the 2017 season. It generally takes anywhere from nine months to a year to recover from ACL surgery and two years before the athlete is back to 100 percent.

Lauletta was ready to go when Richmond began its preseason training camp in late July.

“Never once did I have negative thoughts about recovering or not coming back as strong as I was before,” Lauletta said. “Whenever you have an injury like that, you have to stay positive. You can’t let negative thoughts go through your head. I think I was good about that.”

Saturday, almost a year to the day of his injury, Lauletta plays the last game of his college career when the Spiders serve as the hosts against long-time rival William and Mary.

With a 5-5 record going into the game, Richmond will not gain a playoff berth, even with a victory.

On the field, Lauletta has been outstanding bordering on great. He is the first UR quarterback to pass for more than 10,000 yards in his career. He has completed 63 percent of his passes, and those weren’t short tosses to uncovered running backs or tight ends.

He holds team records for single game, season and career passing yards and touchdowns. He has 16 300-yard passing games, five 400-yard games and threw for the school record of 546 yards against Sam Houston State this season.

“He’s always honing his craft, whether it’s physically or mechanically,” Richmond coach Russ Huesman said. “I see him over here all the time studying film, studying the game. I see him bringing people with him.

“He can play at the next level. That’s just me saying it, but it’s also what other people are saying. We’ve had scouts in here from every (NFL) team except Cincinnati. He has good enough arm strength. He throws a great deep ball. His escapability is good. The only knock on him, and this sounds stupid, is his size.”

Lauletta is 6-feet-3 or 6-2 ¾ or 6-2 ½, depending on when he’s measured and who’s doing the measuring, and weighs 214.

“He’s got some length to him,” Huesman said. “He’s got some girth to him. He’s not going to be the tallest guy, but there are some special ones out there who are 6-feet tall.”

Lauletta has upheld admirably the ideal of a college student and athlete. He will complete his graduation requirements for a double major in business administration, with a concentration in marketing, and leadership studies in December.

He has not just balanced the challenges that come with being a student and athlete at Richmond, he has excelled.

“At a school like Richmond, you have to be diligent in time management,” Lauletta said. “Richmond is very demanding academically, and whether you’re an athlete or a regular student, they’re not going to cut you any breaks.

“You have to learn to perform in school just as well as you do on the field. It’s extremely, extremely difficult, but I think it’s prepared me for the rest of my life and how hard you have to work to succeed.”

When you’ve conquered athletics and academics at Richmond and when you’ve endured the agony of having your heel pushed to your back to break up scar tissue in your knee, chances are you’re ready for just about anything.