Developing mental muscles
November 10, 2006
Strength has always been important for Park City’s Kyle Mutcher.
It was his strong body that earned him a spot on the starting offensive and defensive line at Park City High School. It later afforded him looks by scouts from Weber State University.
His physical presence on the field was rewarded by a full-ride scholarship to the Division I-AA school and looked to carry him through four years of college football. He even went from six feet three inches and 255 pounds to 285 pounds in the off-season to make him that much more competitive.
But this season, the college sophomore has had to call on a new type of strength. After a crippling MCL tear midway through training camp, it has been his mental toughness that has pulled him through and earned him a spot on the starting offensive line.
"It was tough going from pre-season starter to being on the sidelines," said Mutcher.
So tough that Mutcher threw himself completely into the recovery process. He spent his free time learning the playbook in and out and rehabbed constantly, missing only the first four games of the season.
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"It was a pretty fast recovery," Mutcher admitted.
And so, fitted with a brace, Mutcher saw his big opportunity to get back in the game on a Thursday night against Northern Colorado, which was being broadcast on ESPN.
"I figured they might play me, so I better play my best," Mutcher said
And he did. So hard that he was given the starting offensive guard position, amidst a Weber State 26-21 win.
At Weber, each player is given a grade for his performance in individual games. Mutcher received an 89 percent in the Northern Colorado game, and has been working to achieve 100 percent ever since.
"I’m establishing a name for myself," Mutcher said.
He says he spends countless hours in the weight room, and thanks to freshman roommate, Paul Carpenter, he has adopted the bottomless eating habits of a true college lineman. It’s a lot to think about, but Mutcher says it’s all worth it.
"I definitely see myself as lucky, but I’ve put in a lot of hard work," Mutcher said. "I’ve worked for my luck."
The season has been somewhat frustrating for the Wildcats, losing three games midseason by a margin of six points or less, including a three-point loss to No. 2-ranked Montana, but Mutcher keeps persevering. Next year, the team opens at Brigham Young University and the following season at the University of Utah and Mutcher plans to start in both games.
He has the constant support of his parents, Kelly and Colleen, who convinced him to endure through the knee injury and see his college athletic career all the way though. He also has the backing of his coaches. In fact, his strong mental attitude has been one of the biggest reasons Mutcher has remained a starter.
"The better you are mentally, the better you are on the field," Mutcher said.
His line coach, Alex Gerke, known for his intensity, pushes to the edge every practice and every game, and so far Mutcher has been able to pass the test.
"The coaches are supportive, but they really push to see how much you can take, so that they know how much you can take in games," Mutcher said.
His fellow linemen a group of younger guys that keep improving game by game also provide support.
"We’re brothers," Mutcher said. "We go through the same thing and know what it takes to become great football players."
Even former players and coaches from Park City will come up and watch Mutcher play, although he’d like to see more people.
"People are like, ‘WSU? How big could they be?’ And then they realize what a serious program it is," Mutcher said.
Mutcher says the best is yet to come with a young program and strong recruiting classes.
His most loyal fan, though, may be his little brother, Calvin. The starting lineman on the Miners’ football team text messages his big brother before every game, just as Mutcher did all the way through Park City High’s near perfect season.
"It was our pre-game thing," Mutcher said nostalgically.
Mutcher’s mental toughness will be tested once again this Saturday as a sprained ankle will sideline him for an away game against the University of Northern Arizona, but he has already been through the worst and knows he can weather the setback with his new-found strength.
"I’m pretty sure I’ll be back for our last game at Idaho State," Mutcher said.