Speedy defender looks to make most of opportunity in Cobras’ secondary
Kyle Abrom is tired of flying under the radar. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound athlete needs an opportunity to prove himself, and he's likely going to get it this spring with the Seattle-Tacoma Cobras.
"All my life, I've been a hard worker," Abrom said. "My brother Nate, he always told me, 'I believe in you. No matter what, you're going to play professional football somewhere.' "
Coming from a series of small schools, it's been a dream clouded by reality.
To this day, Abrom hasn't settled into a specific position. He played youth football in the same league in Fort Wayne, Ind., as NFL Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard. He grew up playing all three linebacker positions and also was a big, strong cornerback — one who could bench press 300 pounds by the time he was a high school sophomore.
At Paul Harding High under head coach Sherwood Haydock, Abrom thrived at middle linebacker, particularly during his senior season, when he helped the Hawks win their only Class 2A state championship.
It was a breakout campaign that caught the attention of many people. Abrom was named second-team all-conference and an honorable mention statewide.
"Coaches would say, 'You have all the tools in the world to become a great football player,' " Abrom said.
That was 2006. It's been a tough road since.
"After high school, I didn't really know what to do," Abrom said. "I didn't have the best grades."
He enrolled at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and he eventually transferred to Midland University in Fremont, Neb., an NAIA school for which he appeared in a total of just three games in two years.
Primarily, that was because he tore an anterior-cruciate ligament in one of his knees while he was playing on special teams, and he spent a lot of time rehabbing with specialist Jamie Crowe.
"I got my knee back stronger than ever, and I was a more explosive athlete than I was," Abrom said.
Before the 2009 injury, he was running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. Now he clocks a 4.5 40 and benches more than 400 pounds.
Like most athletes, though, he didn't think something serious would derail his career.
"I look at it as God telling me to be humble, don't forget where you came from to get to where you're going," Abrom said. "I just look at it as a blessing in disguise."
Abrom earned a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice from Midland in May 2012, and then he returned to Fort Wayne, where he attempted to join a training facility as he prepared to get his name out there for pro teams in the United States and Europe.
He wasn't all that surprised when the facility turned him down.
"They didn't know anything about me," he said.
Since he didn't go to a major college program that appears on national TV every Saturday, Abrom said agents who initially liked his athleticism backed way off. Most of the time, he never heard from them again.
"It can be very overwhelming and stressful, because you look on TV — look at Florida State, USC, Michigan — they're seen on TV, and agents are hungry for them," he said. "Some of them will be drafted (by NFL teams), and if not they're drafted, they might be picked up (in free agency) after the draft, if the right people give them the opportunity.
"If the same agent was in that room, and if I had a better year than that person from Bowling Green or from the University of Texas — the some position, same size and everything — they will pick him (over me) because he played at the level closer to the NFL."
Abrom said that's given him extra motivation.
"You may have to work harder than some of those Division I players, you may have to get an extra rep in, extra sprint or an extra lap," he said. "You've never had anything given to you. The thing is, though, I live off that. Whatever opportunity I have or take, I take it and run with it, because I want to be successful at whatever I do."
The Seattle Seahawks were interested in Abrom last year when he played in the American Professional Football League with the Council Bluffs Express in Iowa, a team that has since moved to Lincoln, Neb., and become the Haymakers of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.
Abrom started with the Express as a rookie linebacker, but it was too late in the NFL's draft process to make many heads turn. A Seahawks scout told him he was a great athlete, and they wanted to see more film on him.
That's one of the reasons he'll be in Seattle-Tacoma this year. Abrom got in touch with an NFL agents' association, and they marketed him to the Professional Developmental Football League. The Cobras liked what they saw.
"I look at this as a blessing," Abrom said. "This is saving my career to get to where I want to be."
By Brian McLean