(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Senior wide receiver Kyle Echols grew up just over 200 miles away from Warrensburg, but the St. Louis, Missouri native traveled nearly 2,000 miles before finally making his way across the state to UCM.
Echols grew up playing football, just not as a wide receiver. He started out as a lineman on his Little League team, the U-City Lions.
As one can imagine, his job as a big man didn’t last.
His reassignment, however, wasn’t a result of his inability to play the line. It, instead, was due to the discovery of Echols’ ability to throw the ball.
One day at practice Echols’ coach asked the then lineman to toss a ball to him. Echols executed a near perfect spiral. Echols’ coach, surprised by the throw, asked him to throw the ball again. Echols duplicated the crisp throw and immediately began partaking in quarterback drills.
The shift to quarterback seemed to be the right fit for Echols. He immediately excelled in the role and led his team to a little league championship.
“I led my team to the Little League Super Bowl,” Echols said. “After that, football pretty much had my heart.”
Despite his success at the quarterback position, Echols was forced to move positions once more when his family moved from the city out to the suburbs.
He enrolled in Fort Zumwalt West high school and joined their football program. The only problem: they already had a starting quarterback.
“I just knew I had to get on the field some way somehow,” Echols said. “So they moved me to receiver. I was a little shaky at first. It was hard for me to adapt, but it was pretty easy once it came to me. Ever since then I’ve been playing receiver.
The third position proved to be the charm for Echols as he helped his team make their way deep into the postseason; once to the state quarterfinals and once to the semifinals. Echols earned all-conference honors in the early years of his high school career and eventually went on to be named first team all-state at the conclusion of his senior year.
His high school honors caught the attention of college scouts and Echols committed to play football at Eastern Illinois. A coaching change at the university, however, caused Echols scholarship to be revoked, forcing him to take his football career elsewhere.
The heartbreaking news from Eastern Illinois left Echols searching for another outlet to play football. His search led him across the border to a prep school in Ontario, Canada.
Elchols was drawn to the school due to their advertisement of gleaming facilities. He arranged to live with the family of one of his teammates and was, at first, convinced that Ontario may be where he belonged. He had the opportunity to venture into Toronto and his suspension was strengthened by his appreciation of the city.
Although the new environment made a memorable first impression on Echols, he was vastly disappointed once the season began. The program didn’t live up to Echols’ high expectations and after just one game, he left Ontario and took a semester off from school.
An entire semester without football proved to be too much for Elchols, though, so the next semester he tried his luck again playing in the NCAA; this time with Kansas State.
Echols says he appreciated his time at K-State and met great people along the way, but it was still not exactly where he wanted to be. After a year and a half in Manhattan, Kansas, he was ready to move again.
This time, someone who he met years earlier directed his football journey. Josh Lamberson, the Mules offensive coordinator form 2010-2014, recruited Elchols out of high school and, upon hearing of Echols’ upcoming departure from K-State, persuaded the then redshirt sophomore to come to UCM.
Similar to his search for the right position, his search for the right school required a series of changes before he finally found the one that was right for him. Since his arrival at UCM in 2014, Echols has received honorable mention All-MIAA honors and has over 1,000 yards receiving.
“I’m just thankful to be here now and be a Mule,” Echols said.