Kyle Newhall-Caballero: From the NFL to Prague and Back Again

Kyle Newhall-Caballero competing against the Vienna Vikings in the Austrian Football League.

Kyle Newhall-Caballero competing against the Vienna Vikings in the Austrian Football League.

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You might think that a dairy farm is not the traditional launching pad for a professional football career, but then you might not know Kyle Newhall-Caballero.

And yet, after stops with the Ivy League, the Oakland Raiders, and Prague, growing up on a farm seems to be by far the most traditional thing he’s done.

Newhall-Caballero grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Gilbert, Arizona until he was 10 years old. Following a move to Gilbert’s residential area, he began playing football at 13 and eventually enrolled at Gilbert High School. His football career quickly took off at Gilbert, as he became the team’s starting quarterback during the second-half of his sophomore season and never looked back. Newhall-Caballero played for the legendary Jesse Parker, one of the winningest coaches in Arizona history, and the awards began stacking up. While throwing for 5,726 yards and 46 touchdowns during his high school career, he also earned First Team All-Fiesta Region during his junior and senior seasons and was awarded the Fiesta Region Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.

His stellar play on the field was perhaps outmatched only by his performance in the classroom, where he earned a 4.6 grade point average. He began drawing interest from several schools – including the Ivy Leagues – and ultimately decided on Brown University, one of the premier academic institutions in the United States.

“Going to Brown wound up being one of the luckiest decisions I’ve ever made,” said Newhall-Caballero. “My education was really important to me and I really wanted to get that degree from a top institution.”

Brown University, a member of the prestigious eight-team Ivy League conference, is the seventh-oldest university in the United States and located in Providence, Rhode Island. “Providence is pretty cool. It’s not a huge city, but you have a downtown portion of it. There’s a little river that runs through it and it’s quite a beautiful city. You can find whatever you want there or you can head up to Boston which is less than an hour away. New York City is just three hours in the other direction.”

At Brown, Newhall-Caballero continued to excel. Becoming the starting quarterback as a junior, he led the Bears to a 6-4 record during the 2009 season, finishing third in conference play. He completed 259 of 413 passes for 2,709 and 18 touchdowns that season and was named First Team All-Ivy League and took home several awards including Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, the Boston Gridiron Club Golden Helmet Award, and College Sporting News National All-Star. After suffering a broken hand early the following season, Newhall-Caballero was awarded a medical redshirt and returned for a full Senior season in 2011. The Bears finished 7-3 and tied for second in Ivy League play. He completed 226 of 369 passes for 2,356 yards and 18 touchdowns while earning Honorable Mention All-Ivy honors, becoming one of the most prolific passers in Brown history.

Newhall-Caballero playing at Brown University (Courtesy of Brown Athletics).

Newhall-Caballero playing at Brown University (Courtesy of Brown Athletics).

Following his final season at Brown, Newhall Caballero moved back to Gilbert to begin training for the NFL Draft. “They told me I was a possible late-round draft pick or priority free agent, so worst-case scenario I’d be signed right after the draft, depending on how I do on my pro day.”

His pro day went well, including a 4.51 time in the 40-yard dash and a 36.5 inch vertical jump. “I met with the Cleveland Browns soon afterwards, but they eventually drafted Brandon Weeden in the 1st round and elected not to take another quarterback in the draft.

“After the draft, I waited for a call which never came. Guys were getting calls to attend organized team activities (OTAs), so I went back to training on my own. About a week and a half later, I got a call from my agent who let me know that the Oakland Raiders were interested and wanted me to fly out to Oakland to work out with them. I was so pumped. I didn’t want to have to tell people that I had spent the last five months of my life working out, only to have nothing to show for it.

“I finally got the call. It was time to go earn a sport in the NFL.”

Around 25 coaches and front office personnel came out to watch the workout. “It was nerve-racking, but it felt good at the same time. It was time for me to put on a show. I said to myself, ‘if I’m ever going to make it into the NFL I’m going to have to do well right here.'”

In fact, he did make it to the NFL. The Raiders signed him on the spot and he jumped right into OTAs.

“It was pretty surreal. I was elated because I had spent so much time trying to be a good football player. It had finally happened. I was so pumped to sign an NFL contract and I was going to wear an Oakland Raiders helmet. You get emotional too because you have so many people pulling for you and you want to make them proud, and finally it happens for you: you’re an NFL football player. It was pretty darn exciting. It had to be one of the best feelings of my life.”

Newhall-Caballero spent the summer in Oakland with the Raiders preparing for the 2012 season. “My first day at ‘work’ with the Raiders, I went into the meeting room and there was [Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks] Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, along with Terrelle Pryor.

Newhall-Caballero on the sidelines during the Raiders' preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.

Newhall-Caballero on the sidelines during the Raiders’ preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.

“That kind of intensity is not uncommon in the NFL, but I never found that anywhere else – where meetings and practice mean a lot,” noted Newhall-Caballero. “My goal was to crack the #3 spot on our roster, so every day was really important for me. The thing that makes it difficult is to get live reps if you’re #3 or #4 because the 1s and 2s are getting the reps, with only a few reps sprinkled in for everyone else. Most of my time was spent running scout team or waiting for them to call my name to get some reps during team periods.”

NFL teams typically keep 3 quarterbacks on the regular season roster, so there was intense competition for those three spots. Unfortunately, Newhall-Caballero’s only snaps came in the third game of the preseason against the Detroit Lions. “I handed the ball of 3 times and took 3 knees at the end of the game. So I have -5 rushing yards in my career.”

He was cut before the team’s fourth and final preseason game. “The first thing I thought was that I hope I get another shot,” recalled Newhall-Caballero. “I was a little bit embarrassed – I had such highs throughout the months leading up to this, with people texting me to congratulate me all the time. It hurt. I didn’t even get the chance to go fall on my face.

“But I can say that at one point I was one of the 100 or so QBs in the NFL. I’ve taken snaps in the NFL. I learned from some pretty good coaches and made some good friends.”

After being cut from the Raiders, Newhall-Caballero went back to Arizona. He continued to work out and stay in shape, waiting for his next opportunity. He began working with a startup cognitive sports company called Axon Sports and enjoyed his time there, but he started to miss football again.

Newhall-Caballero activated a Europlayers profile and quickly began drawing interest from several teams. “That was when the Prague Black Panthers reached out to me,” he described. “Location-wise, Prague was really appealing to me.”

He did in fact join the Prague Black Panthers, whom have been so successful in the Czech Republic the last several years that in 2010 they joined Austrian Football League (AFL), one of the premier leagues in Europe. The Black Panthers were coming off a 2-8 season in the ultra-competitive AFL and were searching for a quarterback who would rocket them to the top of the league.

After throwing passes to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a few weeks in preparation for his departure, Newhall-Caballero took off for Prague in early 2014.

Daniel Leško, Offensive Coordinator and General Manager for the Black Panthers, was immediately impressed upon Newhall-Caballero’s arrival. “The first practice I saw, I was like wow,” Leško notes. “His accuracy was unbelievable. His coaching skills helped us with the offensive schemes and helped develop our receivers. He was pretty familiar with my offensive system too [the Air Raid]. He was very effective from the first game.”

His presence was felt very quickly, with the Black Panthers finishing the season in fourth place at 3-5 and qualifying for the playoffs. Though Black Panthers lost five games, they defeated the Austrian Bowl finalists and lost to the eventual Austrian Bowl champions by only three points, respectively. This was a massive improvement over the previous season, as they were able to remain competitive in every game. In the playoffs they faced the Vienna Vikings, one of the premier teams in Europe for the past two decades and the eventual Austrian Bowl champion. The Black Panthers fell to the Vikings on the road, 41-27, however they were now a team to be reckoned with.

“I thought we did a really good job,” remarked Newhall-Caballero. “We were competitive in nearly every game. We lost a handful of games by a touchdown or less and we beat teams we hadn’t beaten before. We defeated the Graz Giants twice and the [2015 Austrian Bowl champion] Swarco Raiders.”

Newhall-Caballero competing in the Austrian Football League for the Prague Black Panthers.

Newhall-Caballero competing in the Austrian Football League for the Prague Black Panthers.

He finished the season with 3,162 passing yards and 31 touchdowns in just 9 games, and was awarded the 2014 Austrian Football League MVP.

“We had the best scoring offense in the Austrian league, largely due to Kyle,” added Leško, the team’s offensive coordinator. “In the end he had nearly twice as many yards as the next-best quarterback in the league.”

After the 2014 season, Newhall-Caballero again returned to Arizona, intending to pursue a career in the sports industry. But he hadn’t had enough, and Prague certainly hadn’t had enough of him.

“I loved the guys on the team,” he affirmed. “I loved the city. I knew what I had here. The coaches gave me full leeway and I had solid input on the offensive schemes. I knew that if we got even a little bit better, we would have a chance to win the AFL.”

So Newhall-Caballero returned to Prague in 2015 to take another crack at the AFL championship. The team improved to 4-4 and finished in third place during the regular season, another improvement over the previous year. They defeated the Danube Dragons and the Graz Giants each twice, and lost a one-point game to the Vienna Vikings and a 6-point game to the Swarco Raiders. With the #3 seed in the playoffs, the Black Panthers took the trip to Innsbruck, Austria to face the Raiders in the semi-finals and narrowly lost, 48-46. The Raiders would go on to defeat the Vikings 38-0 in the Austrian Bowl. Newhall Caballero finished the season with 3,241 yards and 32 touchdowns in 9 games, an improvement over the previous season which led to his second consecutive league MVP award. The season was over, but Newhall-Caballero and the Black Panthers had made a statement in the AFL.

Following Newhall-Caballero’s final season in 2015 he began an summer internship in the Oakland Raiders scouting department. After a successful stint, he was offered a full-time position in the Raiders’ player personnel department. He’s back in the NFL where he belongs, and his future in the league is bright.

Still, the experience playing for the Prague Black Panthers was amazing for Newhall-Caballero and gave him the opportunity to finish his playing career on a high note. Playing in one of the greatest cities in Europe and competing at the pinnacle of European football was a unique opportunity. “The biggest thing that I took away from it all was that I love football. It took me back to high school: how pure the sport was. Guys do it for the love of the game. That love for the sport was much purer than other American football teams I’ve played on. In the NFL, every day is critical. Players in Europe don’t have to feel that kind of stress. They play because they love it.

“The whole experience was greater than the sum of its parts. You get to live and travel in Europe and play a sport you love while sharing your talent and experience with the team. Then you factor in the teammates you play with and the support staff around you – there’s a potential for camaraderie and fraternity that you rarely experience in life. I was able to do a lot over in Europe that most people dream of doing in their lifetimes, all because of our shared passion for American football.”

And to think it all began on a dairy farm.