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Fauquier High, U of Virginia graduate Kyle McCartin is playing pro football in Europe

Wednesday, Mar. 26 | By Jeff Malmgren
Kyle McCartin will soon play a 12-game season with Pforzheim, extending a football career that includes 11 games as Fauquier High's starring quarterback and four seasons as a special teams player for Virginia. --Photo courtesy of University of Virginia
Kyle McCartin never took a snap at quarterback during five years as an amateur athlete on the University of Virginia football team.

Now a team is paying him to throw a football in Germany.

McCartin, a 2008 Fauquier High graduate, recently signed a six-month contract with the Pforzheim Wilddogs, a team in southwest Germany, near the French border, that competes in a national league.

He will soon play a 12-game season with Pforzheim, extending a football career that includes 11 games as Fauquier High's starring quarterback and four seasons as a special teams player for Virginia.

“I wanted to continue playing," McCartin, 23, said. "That’s always been part of me. I love sports.

"And to live in another country, I had to jump on the opportunity," he said.

McCartin had never traveled outside of the continental United States. Los Angeles was the farthest he'd been from his Warrenton home prior to arriving in Pforzheim on March 5.

"So this was entirely new to me," he said. "The country’s great. The people are really nice."

In fact, McCartin is contemplating staying in Europe even after his contract terminates at the end of August. That would give him time to travel more.

"He just wants to have fun," McCartin's father, Mike, said. "I told him, ‘You’ll never be able to do something like this again. Go do it. See the world.'"

Kyle McCartin said his contract is for about 500 euros per month, almost $700. It also includes an apartment in Pforzheim, a prepaid bus pass, a gym membership, his flight to Germany and eventual return trip to America and, of course, team gear.

The Wilddogs practice three times a week and have been going since March 6. They will play one scrimmage game in early April and then begin the regular season, which will end in mid-August.

McCartin will not only start at quarterback, he'll serve as the Wilddogs' offensive coordinator.

"A brilliant player supposed to bring us the championship," Michael Lang, a Wilddogs team captain, said of McCartin. "Very quick and athletic and as a quarterback he [throws] especially hard and precise balls. He has got a huge knowledge as a coach and is able to transfer that understandably to the players."

Lang has played inside linebacker for Pforzheim since 1992, so he knows the team and German league well.

League rosters are limited to only a handful of foreign players, but many of the Germans speak English. McCartin also began trying to learn some German to better facilitate communication with his new teammates.

The quarterback is enrolled at Pforzheim University, too, and he coaches an under-18 youth team.

"The good thing is, a lot of the football terminology, they can understand, so when I’m coaching it doesn’t take too much translation," McCartin said. "I wanted to coach and wanted to play, and I wanted to travel. It’s kind of a double opportunity."

McCartin originally planned to stay in Germany only until his contract expired in August, but inexpensive flights out of the country were hard to find with Oktoberfest scheduled to begin in late September. So the Wilddogs offered to host McCartin for a while longer.

Nobody in the McCartin family is complaining.

"We might not be able to see him play, but now we’re thinking about going to Oktoberfest," Mike McCartin, who lives in Warrenton with his wife Jennifer, said with a laugh.

He could have been considering a trip to a different European country had his son not chosen the Pforzheim Wilddogs. Teams from Slovenia, Poland, France, Sweden and Italy showed interest in Kyle McCartin after he created a profile on europlayers.com.

"Teams shop, more or less, for players," Mike McCartin said. "It was kind of cool."

Kyle McCartin, who graduated from Virginia in May, posted a football resume of sorts on the website along with some highlight claps. Then interested teams across Europe contacted him.

He liked the opportunity in Pforzheim most, having talked to people who previously traveled and played abroad.

"Germany is one of the better countries as far as competition goes," he said. "Being located in such a central part of Europe, it also gives me an opportunity to do some traveling."

Numbers game

Kyle McCartin’s football career was like a scavenger hunt for jersey numbers and bodily injuries.

He didn’t get them all but ended up with more than anybody else. That made for five years of fluctuation at Virginia.

As a redshirt freshman, McCartin wore No. 16 as a quarterback. The next season he switched to linebacker and began playing special teams with No. 7 on his jersey. Then McCartin moved to tight end and wore No. 49.

For his final two seasons, McCartin switched back to No. 7. Even then, however, he wore No. 51 on Senior Night in honor of his brother, Connor, who wore that number at Virginia until multiple concussions ended his career.

“He might hold the record for the most numbered jerseys ever worn at Virginia,” Mike McCartin said.

After joining the Cavaliers as a walk-on in 2008 and using a redshirt, Kyle McCartin asked to switch from quarterback to linebacker so he could get on the field as a special teams player for head coach Al Groh. He played in two games as a redshirt freshman before Mike London took over as head coach and shifted McCartin to tight end.

McCartin got on the field for four offensive plays as a redshirt sophomore, but remained primarily a special teams player and participated in nine of the Cavaliers' 12 games.

“Special teams, it was kind of my thing and I like playing it a lot,” McCartin said. “It helped me gain a better understanding of the game.”

McCartin played mostly on kickoff coverage, kick returns and punt returns. As a redshirt junior he played in all of the Cavaliers’ 13 games and then played 10 of 12 games during his final season in 2012.

Those last two seasons he also served as Virginia’s scout team quarterback, playing the role of opposing teams’ signal-callers in practice. Thus, he felt plenty prepared to play quarterback for the Pforzheim Wilddogs.

“I’ve always kept my arm pretty good,” McCartin said. “I still love quarterback from playing in high school.”

His senior season at Fauquier High ended when he tore his ACL during the first game. Injuries continued to plague him in Charlottesville.

McCartin had surgery on a broken jaw as a redshirt freshman. Then, over the next few years, he had surgery on torn tendons in his left thumb, on a torn labrum in his left shoulder and on a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

McCartin played through most of those injuries, though, and actually earned a football scholarship for his redshirt junior and senior seasons. The morning before Virginia played in the 2011 Chic-Fil-A Bowl, London announced the scholarship during a meeting.

“I was very happy about being recognized – that I did something well in college football,” McCartin said.

“It was the best experience of my life,” he said of his career at Virginia. “I grew up a bunch and got an amazing education. It was definitely the time of my life.”

McCartin graduated with a Master’s degree in education and then spent some time as a substitute teacher at Fauquier High. He also worked as a trainer at the Title Boxing Club gym in Ashburn owned by his parents.

Path to Pforzheim

Marc Verica planted the seed.

The Cavaliers’ starting quarterback in 2010, Verica graduated from Virginia in 2011, when Kyle McCartin was a redshirt junior. Verica then played two seasons for a team in France after professional opportunities failed to manifest in America.

“He was the first one that kind of put me on to that” option, said McCartin, who followed a similar blueprint last year.

McCartin worked out at the Cavaliers’ Pro Day in March of 2013, but no professional teams showed interest. He also planned to attend an NFL combine, but his second torn labrum eliminated that opportunity.

Regardless, a budding sports agent, Ricardo Rodriguez, helped McCartin find other avenues.

“He’d seen my special teams play,” McCartin said. “He thought I had the opportunity to at least pursue playing at the next level somewhere.”

They eventually settled on Europe.

Before departing for Pforzheim, Germany, two weeks ago, McCartin spent a few months working out in Warrenton with David Lewis, his former high school teammate. Lewis played wide receiver on the Fauquier High teams that McCartin quarterbacked. He then played on scholarship at Southern Illinois University.

After graduating in 2012, Lewis played one season for the Green Bay Blizzard of the Professional Indoor Football league. He now plays for the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League.

“He’s doing quite well,” McCartin said. “I’m so happy. We both love playing football. I’m glad we both got a chance to continue.”

The Pforzheim Wilddogs are glad, too.

“We all hope that he enjoys his German football adventure,” Michael Lang said.

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Injury turned Connor McCartin into Cavaliers coach

Kyle McCartin graduated in May with one of his special teams coaches.

That coach also happened to be his brother, Connor McCartin.

After suffering a career-ending injury with the University of Virginia football team during August of 2011, Connor spent two seasons as a student coach under Cavaliers special teams coach Anthony Poindexter. The year before, as a sophomore, Connor had played on special teams with his redshirt sophomore brother.

That was their last season as teammates because Connor suffered the second concussion of his college career during the 2011 preseason, but the brothers remained interactive on the team.

Connor continued to work with the special teams units on which Kyle played.

“He was very involved,” Kyle said. “He helped with the organization and watched a lot of game film.”

Connor also remained on a football scholarship and graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree while his older brother graduated with a master’s degree. They walked together during the graduation ceremony.

“It was kind of nice,” the McCartins’ father, Mike, said. Conner “played two years before getting knocked out. It made us happy that they didn’t redshirt him that first year when everybody was talking that he shouldn’t play. He got that many more plays.”

Plus, thanks to Connor’s experience as a student coach at Virginia, next fall he will join the Broad Run High coaching staff as the defensive line coach.

"I am very excited," Connor said. "Broad Run has a great tradition of football excellence. I hope to use my background as a player and student coach at the University of Virginia to help these young men reach all of their goals."

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