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Crawford County’s Kaleb Wyman, bottom right, who now plays semi-professional football for the Kentucky Reapers, makes a defensive stop against the Owensboro Wildcats in the Reapers’ 53-0 win at Fort Knox High School. Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Whitman

Crawford's Wyman joins Reapers

July 04, 2012
When Kaleb Wyman graduated from Crawford County Junior-Senior High School in 2009, the thing he missed most was playing football. Wyman found himself unable to attend college, but he stayed with the game, helping coach in the school's youth football program. After doing a little research, however, Wyman found a way back into the game through the semi-professional Gridiron Developmental Football League and is now a member of the Kentucky Reapers.

"I didn't get to go to college because my parents couldn't afford it and didn't have enough money because it's so expensive and everything," Wyman said. "So, I went straight into coaching little league football here. All the little kids were asking why I wasn't playing football anymore.

"My fiancée (Kaitlyn Love) has never seen me play football and she wanted to, so I just started looking up on the Internet and found a team. I went out there and tried out, and I made the team. It's the greatest decision I ever made, really."

Wyman found the GDFL had a number of teams in Kentucky. He first applied to the Derby City Thunder but got no reply. He then tried out for the Reapers and was almost immediately accepted.

"I walked on and tried out," he said. "They had me do bench presses, and I had to do a 40-yard dash. There were different cone drills. It was a pretty intense workout. I wasn't in the shape I was in high school. … It was pretty much just to see what happens. They were pretty shocked at how fast I was. I'm the fastest person on our team right now."

The GDFL is made up of two conferences: the Impact Conference and the Extreme Conference. The Impact Conference consists of 56 teams and the Extreme Conference has 58 teams for a total of 114 teams nationwide, with six of those in Kentucky. The games are played mostly on high school fields using National Football League rules. The Reapers, who play their home games at Fort Knox, have a 10-game season. The league has a post-season playoff with its own version of the Super Bowl.

"They have a playoff with these (division teams) first and then you go off into another bracket against other divisions," Wyman said. "Then, it goes into a championship, and, if you win, you get championship rings and everything. A couple of people on our team have them. Our owner has a championship ring."

"They said as long as you win eight of your 10 games, you'll make it into the playoffs," he said. "I haven't been that far, so I'm not exactly sure how it goes. They have an all-star game afterwards. You can nominate five people from each team. That doesn't mean everybody goes, because there are so many. Our defensive captain went to it last year."

Like he did in high school, Wyman plays both offense and defense.

"I pretty much play all offense and, on defense, I'm going in and out whenever they need me," he said. "We've had two pre-season games already. We looked pretty good in those."

Wyman said travel time to the away games can mean a five-to-six-hour drive with some team members not making the trip for various reasons.

"We've had a pretty good turnout," he said. "We've had about 30 of our 50 people show up. We won both of those pre-season games."

"The first game this season, we played the No. 1 team in the league, who were champions last year, the Indianapolis Tornadoes," Wyman said. "We held them to two points till the last five minutes of the game and then we got another safety, so they got up four points. Then, they had a 'Hail Mary' and won 18-0. In the second game, we blew them out and I had my first regular season touchdown. I had a 40-yard touchdown on it. We won that game, 53-0. It was a blowout."

Wyman said he has had to adjust to different offenses and learn new plays, but the hardest part has been the hour-long drive to Fort Knox. Some of those nights can make it tough when Wyman has to get up early the next morning to go to work.

"It's a long drive," he said. "That's the hardest part about it. I'll have to drive about an hour to get there. By the time I get home, it's 11 o'clock. Then, I've got to be up at 5 o'clock in the morning for work. That's the hardest part, the drive, and you're always tired."

Despite that, Wyman said playing in the GDFL can lead to better things with scouts from major professional teams and college teams coming to games to check out the Gridiron talent.

"We have NFL scouts and AFL scouts, Canadian Football League scouts, and some college scouts come to the games," Wyman said. "We don't get paid for it because, if you get paid, you can never play college football. … After the season is over, we're actually going to have NFL scouts come out and watch us do all these drills just like at the beginning of the season. You just never know."

Wyman said he gets a lot of support at home and, if it doesn't work out, he has a place to come back to.

"My mom (Patty) was my biggest fan in high school and still is," he said. "Working with the little kids, I love doing that. If this doesn't work out, I'll continue coaching. (Crawford County) coach (Alan) Hess asked me to give him a call about coaching again. It's helping these kids to become something one day."

"I'd at least like to play at a level I'm getting paid, pretty much make money (with) something you love doing," Wyman said. "You always have to have goals to make it in life."

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