Eye on the U

Brad Kaaya talks about NFL future and UM past: ‘It was just a hell of a ride.’

Former Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya spoke publicly for the first time about his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Former Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya spoke publicly for the first time about his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Russell Athletic Bowl, former University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya said Monday night that he just went with his “gut feeling” and it “was the right time” to enter the NFL Draft.

“With all the momentum and how the season ended, it just felt right,” Kaaya told UM radio broadcaster Joe Zagacki on WQAM-560’s Hurricane Hotline show. “If the bowl game and last five games of the year had gone a lot differently, maybe a different outcome, it wouldn’t have been such a clear-cut decision. But it just felt like the right time to leave and begin my professional development.”

Kaaya, represented by CAA Sports, had just finished a workout in Phoenix, Arizona, along with, for one, Clemson national champion receiver Mike Williams. He spoke quickly and seemed exuberant to be embarking on a new path.

When asked about his comfort level at the feedback he got when making his decision about whether to leave after his junior season, Kaaya told Zagacki he was “very comfortable.”

“To be honest,” Kaaya said, “I just wanted a draftable grade. It wasn’t so much of getting a guaranteed top-five pick or guaranteed first round.

“I had grades anywhere between round two, round three, round four, even round 5 — but just to have a draftable grade anywhere in the first few rounds of the draft.

“Some of the coaches that I talked to through a couple of people who are close to me suggested that I would have a draftable grade. … I just want an opportunity to play. And I know if I get a solid opportunity I think I’ll make the most of it and I’ll really make a lot of teams proud.”

Kaaya, who finished his college career as the Hurricanes’ all-time leading passer with 9,968 career yards in three seasons, announced on Jan. 2 through a written release and statement via UM that he would pursue the NFL instead of returning to Miami for his senior season.

He called his decision that day “one of the toughest” of his life, and added that he has “zero worries that the U will indeed be back.”

The draft is April 27-29, and Monday marked the deadline for underclassmen to apply for early entry.

Kaaya said Monday that his 38 starts and pro-style experience were “huge” in terms of preparing him for the NFL. He added that he was a fast learner and that playing in “three different offenses” helped even more. “You see a lot of guys come from offenses that are not as complex,” he said, where they “look to the sideline to get the call and go exactly where the coach is telling them to go…

“I had a lot of ability to change a play, a lot of pro-style concepts, pro-style reads, even pro-style run checks.”

He described his UM career as “awesome.”

“It’s crazy how fast it went by,’’ Kaaya told Zagacki. “It feels like I was just a fat little freshman on campus in 2014. No one knew who I was. It was just a hell of a ride, man. The ups and downs, all the crazy stuff that happened. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

As of last week, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper listed Kaaya as the fifth-best quarterback prospect in the 2017 draft behind Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame, Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller projected Kaaya in the second round at No. 53 overall, with former UM tight end David Njoku at No. 46.

Kaaya never redshirted at UM, immediately winning the job and playing as a true freshman. How would he feel about sitting out a year in the NFL to concentrate on learning?

“We’ll see,” he said. “Knowing me, I want to step in and play right away. But to be honest, whichever situation I end up in, whether it’s having to play right away or having to sit and learn, I’m fine. I know I’m a fast learner, but it would also be great to learn behind a veteran quarterback who is going to help me grow.”

“Don’t forget us,” Zagacki said to end the interview.

“No shot,” Kaaya replied. “No shot.”

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