Every position in football is crafted as much by stereotype as it is specific physical responsibilities, and the accompanying mental capacity to accomplish said responsibilities as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Wide receivers run routes and catch passes and block, for example, but the position is just as readily recognized and discussed in terms of some mythologized self-absorbed “diva” frame of mind. The finesse, pretty boy, me-first stigma so often attached – and long since entrenched by unrelentingly dramatic media personas like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss – is and will remain a part of everything a modern wide receiver is defined and perceived as.
The perception bothers Kyle Queiro, even as he starred at defensive back and wide receiver for New Jersey powerhouse Bergen Catholic for two seasons. He didn’t want to be known as a finesse player, or a “soft” wide receiver, and when he begins his college football career at Northwestern this season, he plans to divorce himself from every miscast judgment about his playing style.
He wants his own reputation; and not be broadbrushed with some wide-held positional standard of expectation. Wide receivers may be “finesse” guys, but Kyle Queiro wants you to get it straight: he can’t, and won’t, be characterized in that light.
“Throughout high school, I’ve kind of been labeled as this finesse guy,” he said Saturday, talking about what position he might end up playing with the Wildcats. Coming out of Bergen Catholic, most programs gave Queiro the choice of playing defensive back or wide receiver. A few schools, including West Virginia and UNC, saw Queiro as a receiver, but his online recruiting profile said athlete, and that – removing any and all determinative position conventions, entering the next phase of his career as a “player” adaptable enough to plug in wherever his coaches saw fit – captures how Queiro approached the position question entering college.
He was a versatile two-way player; not some rigid, ball-demanding, one-dimensional receiving threat. When he joins the Wildcats in preseason camp (he will arrive in Evanston on June 23 for summer school and team lifting), he plans to start off at cornerback and see where things go from there.
“It’s kind of a pride thing,” he said of his position choice. “It’s a personal choice, but I just wanted to prove I can do it – that I can play well on that side of the ball, too.”
Mentally, Queiro is already off to a great start. Every great cornerback, no matter how experienced or well-schooled, needs to be able to answer one simple question: can you check an opposing team’s best wide receiver? Queiro most definitely believes he can, and his confidence – mixed in with a determined eagerness to show every highschool-age “finesse” critic just how physical he can be on the other side of the ball – could help him break into a talented but thin cornerback rotation this fall.
“I’d definitely like to,” he said of competing for a spot in the secondary. “All those guys are great players. I’m aspiring just to make a difference and get on the field as fast as possible. I know I can guard some of the best players out there.”
In a year’s time, Queiro will be reunited with his brother, Cameron, who verbally committed to Northwestern in April for many of the same reasons as his older brother. They saw an estimable academic institution with an improving football product, but what separated Northwestern from other similar institutions – schools like Vanderbilt and Duke and North Carolina, schools that, in essence, “are trying to sell the same things,” according to the elder Queiro – was the welcoming feeling Queiro got walking around campus during his unofficial visit.
What Queiro saw at Northwestern, and didn’t at other schools with a similar academic-football profile, was a group of people (coaches and academic staffers and on down the line) he could envision himself learning and growing with over a four-year (and possibly five) career.
Being located a short “L” ride away from Chicago, and knowing Fitzgerald would be around for the long haul after recently signing a long contract extension helped Queiro finalize his decision.
“I just got this great feeling when I visited there,” he said. “I enjoyed meeting people and talking to people. It just felt right.”
The past 12 months couldn’t have been more relaxingly enjoyable for Queiro. For starters, the Wildcats, the team he’d be joining in less than a year’s time, won 10 games, snagged its first bowl win in more than six decades and will likely enter this season in every preseason top-25 poll and ranking.
The 2014 recruiting class, which includes younger brother Cameron, gives Queiro more confidence than ever that he’s joining Northwestern at just the right time, as a score of talented prospects join up and the Wildcats can, he contends (same goes for his brother, if more emphatically, make a run at a Big Ten championship.
“I’ve been watching film on some of those guys,” he said. “I’m hoping we can win a Big Ten championship. I would definitely like to be a part of it.”
One year of football without Cameron, who Queiro has been playing with since fifth grade, will feel different. Slightly unfulfilling, perhaps. “It’s a weird feeling, knowing you’re making plays with your own flesh and blood, literally. It’s just nice to have him on the field with you,” he said. Queiro can focus on developing his own talents, competing for his own cornerback spot as a true freshman and making sure no one gets the impression his playing style is anything remotely close to “finesse.”
He plans to go out and make a difference right away. “I just want to make my team better,” he said. Working hard and pushing his competition and fighting for playing time, redshirt or no, will leave Queiro satisfied with his first year on campus.
That, and a complete break from his dramatically spun wideout past, is what Queiro wants out of his first year as at Northwestern.