This week I interviewed one of the most underrated prospects in this years draft class, Danny Kittner. Kittner played receiver for the University of Mary the last few years and set almost every receiving record the school had. The Marauders all-time catch and receiving yard leader was a standout in college and I expect his time in the NFL to be the same. Known for his great hands and playmaking ability, I sat down with Kittner to discuss his time in college and his future in the NFL. Here’s what I uncovered:
Preparing For The Draft
Mason Wood: What’s your routine like during this time where you’re just kind of waiting to find out your next team?
Danny Kittner: That’s the name of it really, it’s a waiting game. Especially this whole month of April. After pro day really it’s just been a waiting game. We really don’t know what’s going to happen until something actually happens. My routine is just continuing to train and prepare and being as ready as possible. That way when there’s an opportunity that presents itself, I’m ready to go and I’m prepared for it.
MW: You don’t have to disclose this information if you don’t want to, but is there a team you’re hoping you get drafted to this weekend?
DK: I’ve grown up a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, I was born and raised there so naturally I’ve grown up being a Steeler fan. That would be a real dream come true but I think it’d be great to stay in Arizona, playing at home, those are probably the top 2. Probably the third team I’d say would be the Patriots just because I feel like that would be one of the places I can succeed the most at because of Bill Belichick. He’s coached Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, guys that are very similar to how I play so I feel I can be successful in that system, it would be awesome to go there.
MW: It’d be awesome to see you come home to Arizona, I’d love to see that.
DK: Absolutely, the Cardinals would be sweet.
MW: What’s one key quality you believe you can bring to an NFL team?
DK: I would say skill wise, my hands. I can confidently say I have the best hands in the draft out of all receivers, I feel like that’s something that separates my game. Also, my work ethic. I think I bring the mindset of outworking my opponent everyday and just being the hardest working guy in the room. I’ve always been like that so I think a team that takes a chance on me will be getting that.
MW: What do you see yourself accomplishing in the next 10 years?
DK: If I’m fortunate enough to be playing football the next 10 years, definitely just being a dude for any NFL team and being a pro-bowl guy, starter, hopefully a Super Bowl winner going into that aspect of it. From there, if I’m fortunate enough to have been playing NFL football for 10 years I definitely think Hall of Fame would definitely be in the question or at least be one of the greatest guys for the franchise, whoever I’m playing for.
MW: In what ways were your coaches able to help you be successful throughout your college career and was there a specific coach that you felt really helped you the most?
DK: Coming out of high school was kind of interesting, I didn’t have a ton of offers coming out of high school and University of Mary was my best offer, I’m very grateful they did offer to me and allowed me to come play receiver for them and obviously it all turned out pretty good. Part of the reason I committed to the University of Mary was the coaching staff.
Going on my official visit back during my senior year of high school I really just fell in love with the coaching staff. Head coach at the time, Craig Bagnell, he was the first or second youngest head coach in all of NCAA. He was 29 years old at the time. It was really cool because our coaching staff was so young, they were like player-coaches. We could relate to them and that was a big reason why I committed I just really loved the coaching staff and I saw that these guys could be a staff that could really help me bring out the best version of myself. Going there, that’s exactly what unfolded. Every year we continued getting better and better. Our coaches were consistently pushing us to be the best versions of ourselves which then helps us become a better team.
Like I said, Coach Craig Bagnell, I definitely owe a lot to him because he was a great offensive mind. Just seeing him every week especially after my sophomore year going into my junior year which was the breakout season, he was super high IQ and just knew what kind of game plan we needed to have. Putting me in the best position as possible whether it was putting me inside or outside. They did a lot of things, I ran plays out of the backfield and then obviously being in the return game. Him trusting me and my abilities and putting me in positions that best allow me to make a play based on whatever we’re running. Then from there it’s up to me to go make that play. SO i would definitely say Coach Bagnell.
Our receiver coach who got there going into my junior year, Coach Nathan Frame, I would say he just brought a lot of great things to the receiver room technique wise and mindset wise. I think he really helped me elevate my game when he got there.
MW: Now you said you had a good connection with those coaches, was that an immediate connection that started when you got there or it did it take some time to develop?
DK: It definitely was an immediate connection. We definitely grew stronger and developed more of a connection to where we really trusted each other. Those are coaches that I love and can turn to for anything now. Those relationships kind of built up more and more and gotten stronger and stronger as every year went on.
MW: How have the past teams you’ve been on, whether it’s little league, high school, college, helped you to become a better player and a better person as well?
DK: I think every team and every league I grew up playing in has its own unique things that you learn from that season. I would say little league is finding yourself, figuring out what it is that you’re really comfortable doing. It’s more just talent at that age. It’s okay if your faster or bigger or quicker than someone because we’re just kids still. More just playing and not a lot of thinking. It’s like wing right, pitch 28 so your pitching to the outside on the right and that’s it. It’s very simple and so it gets more complex as you get older. High school, the competition just increases. Youth football was just going out and really having fun and not really thinking.
Then high school it’s more thinking but it’s still somewhat simple. Getting to College it really gets more complex and it’s learning so many different plays out of a playbook. Learning coverages as far as recognizing what kind of defense they’re in whether it’s one high or two high or man. Getting that repetition in practice, running plays with you’re quarterback, getting timing down. It just becomes more of a business and there’s more and more of that at every level.
Especially in college, what’s really elevated my level of play is the competition being better which forces me to be the best version of myself and bring my best everyday. The level of complexity of the game as well, just learning more and more as far as football IQ and really studying film, which therefore makes it easier on the field. You can play faster and at your fastest pace which then makes the game easier.
MW: Many people say it takes to get used to the speed difference from high school, college and the NFL. Did it take you a while to get used to that speed difference when you got to college or was it just a natural thing that you learned very quickly?
DK: It was a natural thing. I was kind of forced to get used to things right away because I played and started as a Freshman. I had no choice but to adapt right away. Freshmen year was kind of tough though and it was a whole knew kind of thing. Yes, the game was faster, there was a lot more going on, there’s more to each play, it’s a lot of thinking. But, I think I was able to handle it pretty well. After that first year it’s like “this is how it is” and the game slowed down every year. By my senior year it was just a normal kind of pace and it was actually really slow.
MW: How do you help keep your team motivated after a loss or a bad play?
DK: It’s definitely a tough thing to do because I hate losing more than I love winning. I love to win but losing is tough, it doesn’t sit well with me. I think that’s true for a lot of players on a lot of teams. When there’s a play that doesn’t go right or doesn’t go your way you have to have short term memory loss especially in this game. You’re gonna have highs and lows throughout the whole game and throughout the whole season too. That’s the thing we focused on. We knew we would have to face adversity so we knew we just had to put our face in it and grow from it.
Like on a bad play, you have to realize what happened and then just move on and get to the next play and forget about it. If you can’t, you dwell on it and it stays around and force you into another mistake because you’re still stuck on the last play. There’s not one thing that wins or loses a game so you have to be ready to move on to the next play.
That goes with keeping my team motivated if there’s a loss because not every game is going to go the way we want it to, but the goal is 1-0 each week. Yes, it’s a loss, it’s tough, you have to take it by the day and then it’s in the past. You have to move on to the next week and what you want to know for the week and looking forward to the new game plan. It’s another opportunity for us to get a win and put that loss behind us.
MW: That’s a part of football, you have to put the plays behind you quick. If your a quarterback you have to throw something behind you in 5 seconds, it’s a part of the game.
DK: Yes, absolutely.
MW: My last question for you, out of all the games you played in your whole career, which has been the most memorable?
DK: There’s definitely been a lot of great ones and cherishable moments in games, whether my family was there or close family friends or it was just a close game, a win that we had, what the stats ended up being. I would probably say my Junior year, the last game of the season in college. it was a snow game, we had like 20 inches of snow on the ground, it was like 23 degrees. Our game plan usually had us as a passing offense so we didn’t really know how it would effect us. We knew it wouldn’t stop us, but we didn’t how much it would effect us. I broke the record for most receptions in a game in conference history. I had pretty much video game numbers, the 284 yard, 4 touchdown game.
Dealing with the weather and still being able to do that as an offense putting up over 600 total yards. It was a crazy day, it was a back and forth shootout game but unfortunately we didn’t get the win. My quarterback and I actually did break conference history numbers that game. He broke the most passing yards in a season and I broke most receiving yards and receptions in a season. On top of it my dad was there and we had close family friends that were there for that game. Being able to bring them that type of game in that type of atmosphere was pretty sweet.
MW: That’s awesome and the thing the stats don’t show is that you did all that in the snow so that makes it even more impressive. It’s quite impressive.
I want to thank Danny Kittner for joining me and I wish him luck in this weekends draft. If you want more NFL Draft content, click here!