Colorado TE catching up after big switch
Midway through his junior season at Colorado, Nick Kasa's football career was going nowhere, and his future appeared to be headed toward utilizing his communications major.
The 6-foot-6, 269-pound Kasa was a backup defensive end who had started one game in his college career.
"A year ago when I was playing on defense, I was almost planning to finish up my college career and be done with football," he said.
Seeking a way to be more relevant, Kasa had a conversation with head coach Jon Embree.
"I wasn't doing much on defense, kind of not fitting into what we were doing there," he said. "I was playing D-tackle and D-end, going back and forth, and wasn't getting much time. I went to Coach Embree and just asked him if he could use me anywhere else.
"I felt I could do more for my team. I told him, 'I'll play any position, move to offense, wherever,' if I could do more, just be more of an impact. I said I'd play on any special teams."
Kasa got his wish to play on special teams, but more important he got a handful of reps at tight end in each of the Buffaloes' final four games.
The following spring he made the full-time transition to offense. Last fall, he started all 12 games and caught 25 passes for 391 yards, utilizing his 4.71 speed in the 40-yard dash to average an impressive 15.6-yard average per catch.
While Colorado's disappointing 1-11 season resulted in the entire coaching staff being fired, Kasa's performance earned him an invitation to February's NFL scouting combine. Despite his obvious physical blessings of size and speed, the transformation required a massive amount of hard work, and he's still a work in progress.
Kasa caught thousands of balls fired from the Jugs machine in daily drills, and he worked extensively with Embree and Colorado tight ends coach and passing game coordinator J.D. Brookhart.
"They both helped me out tremendously, watching film with guys coach Embree coached before in the NFL," Kasa said. "We watched a lot of film on (the Patriots' Rob) Gronkowski."
Kasa isn't at the same level as the draft's top tight ends. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert is a likely first-round pick. Stanford's Zach Ertz and San Diego State's Gavin Escobar are probable second-round selections. But the former defensive lineman should hear his name called during the NFL draft during Rounds 4-7 on April 27.
He has no character concerns, unlike a couple other highly regarded tight ends. Cincinnati's Travis Kelce and Michigan State's Dion Sims were each suspended for the entire 2010 season; Kelce for a failed drug test and Sims for his role in a theft ring.
While still raw at his new position, Kasa has "undeniable upside," according to Pro Football Weekly's 2013 Draft Preview, which adds that he "flies down the field," is "highly competitive" and has "outstanding work ethic."
A year ago, Kasa couldn't have imagined the scenario that brought him to this point.
"I didn't see this coming," he said at the combine. "The switch to tight end really opened doors to me, and it brought back the love of the game. It was kind of a revelation.
"I didn't know I'd come this far."
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