INDIANAPOLIS -- The long hours that a quarterback spends hunkered down at his team’s football facility and away from home are only matched by a head coach. That is what makes the 2019 NFL Combine special for Kyle and Pat Shurmur.
Kyle, a four-year starter at Vanderbilt looking to make it to the next level, and Pat, his father and head coach of the Giants, will be spend a week in the same place for the first time in years.
“Man, it’s been a while,” Kyle said. “It’s been a long time. Probably before I went to school at Vandy, high school probably, yeah.”
What people see on TV from the combine is mostly takes place on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, but behind the scenes there are miles of skyways connecting hotels, convention center meeting rooms, restaurants – essentially the whole city of Indianapolis. Somewhere in there, Kyle crossed paths with his dad during informal interviews with NFL clubs, and his table was near the Giants. They exchanged a “bro hug, whatever you call it,” Kyle said.
They will have more time together once quarterbacks wrap up their combine duties on Saturday, but for now, it’s all business – for both of them. Kyle is an interviewee, and Pat is an interviewer. Has he ever thought what it would be like to get drafted by the Giants?
“I’d be grateful for any opportunity I get,” Kyle said. “Obviously, that would be a unique situation. But any opportunity I get, I’ll be appreciative for.”
While addressing the media on Wednesday, Pat was asked for a scouting report on his son.
“The Vanderbilt quarterback,” the coach said dryly, “Well, I’m extremely proud of him. He’s made great decisions. He did an excellent job in high school giving himself the opportunity to go to a place like Vanderbilt, graduated in three and a half years, helped them win games. He’s a good player.”
Born in the middle of the 1996 season when Pat was an assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, Kyle and his family moved back to Philadelphia after two years in Cleveland and that is where he played high school football. Pat broke into the NFL ranks in Philly, spending a decade under Andy Reid with the Eagles. Kyle went on to be named the Maxwell Club's Pennsylvania State Player of the Year as a senior and caught the attention of Vanderbilt. He became the starter by the end of his true freshman season and never let go of the job.
He finished as the Commodores’ all-time leader in virtually every passing category with 64 touchdowns, 8,865 yards, 723 completions and 1,273 attempts. As a senior, he completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,130 yards and 24 touchdowns. In SEC play, he threw 15 touchdowns, second most in the league, to just three interceptions, second fewest in the league. He capped off his final home game by completing 31 of 35 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Vanderbilt quarterback to register three wins over Tennessee since the 1920s.
Photos of Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur, son of Giants coach Pat Shurmur.
“Day in and day out, we were competing,” Kyle said of his Vanderbilt career. “Monday through Friday, it was against the best students in the country, and then on Saturday, the SEC, we were competing against the best players in the country in football. Every day you really had to be ‘on’ there in every aspect of your life. It was a great experience. It’s changed my life for the better.”
While Pat earned his reputation with quarterbacks and worked under some of the game’s best offensive minds, he never forced the position on his son. And he certainly didn’t push him to play center, Pat’s position at Michigan State, where was a co-captain.
“No, in fact, he said growing up to make sure you play a position where your hand is not in the ground,” Kyle said. “I sort of gravitated toward quarterback.”
He added: “My dad, everyone thinks he wants me to be a great quarterback; I think he wants me to be a great person first and foremost. And I think that’s a foundation for a great quarterback. I think establishing my morals and just being a father first, he’s been a great father my whole life. That is really the foundation of it.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Shurmur, the mom, has really been running the household. She was in charge of Kyle and his three sisters -- Allyson, Erica and Claire – while Pat spent long hours in the office and on the road.
“My mom is my harshest critic, but she’s my biggest fan at the same time,” Kyle said. “And she really is the glue to our whole family. She’s sort of behind the scenes. Nobody really knows about my mom, but she’s really the strength and the center of our family. I love her. She’s awesome.”
And he wasn’t joking about her being a critic.
“Yeah, it was funny, after the Tennessee State game this year, I threw two picks early on and she’s like, ‘Man, Kyle, you really sucked in the beginning.’ So, yeah, she was harsh at times, but at the same time it came from love. She was honest. She was going to be honest with me and I know she has my best interest in mind.”
She is also an elite athlete as a former swimmer at Michigan State. Kyle followed in her footsteps, too, helping his high school team to the 2014 state swim title. He did the backstroke and freestyle.
“Obviously being an athlete and my dad being an athlete, they preached academics first and then athletics second,” Kyle said. “So I was very fortunate.”
He was also fortunate to be the only boy.
“You sort of get spoiled being the only boy,” said Kyle, the second-youngest in the family. “You don’t have to share Christmas gifts; you don’t get the same ones. It was cool. I love my sisters. Every time we’ve moved, we’ve been each other’s only friends to start, so we’ve learned to be really close with each other.”
Another quarterback who knows all about sports families is Eli Manning. Kyle attended the Manning Passing Academy in Lousiana two years in a row, and after his team’s final bowl game, went to watch the Giants’ season finale against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. He spoke with him on the sideline before the game.
“He’s a great guy,” Kyle said. “Their whole family is awesome, really down-to-earth people even though they’re obviously in the spotlight and all their accomplishments. But they’re really down-to-earth people, and they’re awesome.”
The demeanor, more than anything, is what Kyle admires.
“I think that’s a great way to approach football, or the quarterback position specifically,” he said. “Stay out of the headlines and let your actions speak for themselves. There’s enough chaos going on in the game; you want to eliminate everything off the field. You never hear about him, which is the way it should be, I feel like.”
Kyle is coming out of college at an interesting time for the Giants. The team fully expects Manning to be back for a 16th season, but general manager Dave Gettleman also knows he needs to find a successor to take the torch. The Giants currently have 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, beginning with the sixth overall choice. The first round begins the night of April 25 in Nashville, the city in which Vanderbilt is located, but Kyle will be back home in North Jersey watching with his mom.
“She’s going to be excited wherever I get an opportunity and I’m going to be very appreciative, very grateful for whatever opportunity is presented to me,” Kyle said. “Wherever that is, whether it’s the Giants or 31 other teams.”