While football is a team sport, it takes a special individual to build a special team dynamic.
Kyle Kudla transferred to Slippery Rock last January hoping to pursue his degree and continue playing the sport he loves.
Kudla transferred from Hillsdale College, a school that brought him four and a half great years and a program that he will always appreciate.
The redshirt senior started three of his four years at Hillsdale and played in 35 games.
Kudla captained Hillsdale his senior year and showed impeccable leadership qualities that drew the attention of Slippery Rock.
Just one year into the system, Kudla has found his way as a role model for an undefeated Slippery Rock team.
“To grow into a leadership role here, after building such relationships with the staff and the guys, for them to view me as a leader is an honor,” Kudla said. “It’s a lot of responsibility for sure, but at the same time I think this program at SRU, we have a very unique bond in our locker room and guys that are just willing to leave it all out on the field and battle for each other.”
In talking to Kudla, this was the first of many mentions crediting staff and teammates for his success.
Kudla spoke very highly of his previous college. He continued to praise the love and support he was instantly greeted with at SRU as well.
While Kudla is a very humble and appreciative athlete, his skill cannot be denied.
After ten games this season, the linebacker ranks second in tackles and tackles for loss on the undefeated SRU squad. He was also able to register two quarterback hits in 2023, ranking fourth on the team in such a category.
Kudla stood out numerous times this campaign, specifically against archrival Indiana University (Pa.) where he posted ten total tackles. This would help The Rock overcome the long-awaited hump of taking down IUP.
“From the day I got here I learned about the history of this rivalry with IUP and how important that game was,” Kudla said. “So, to go out there and perform in the fashion that we did was an awesome moment for our team.”
Defeating IUP seemed to be holding SRU back for years from reaching their team’s full potential. Upon accomplishing the feat this season, the team’s potential is evident.
Kudla knows that win was highly valued as a team goal this season and to execute that was an electrifying feeling for The Green and White.
A long list of season goals for this SRU team has been checked off thus far according to Kudla: defeating IUP, winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West and going undefeated in the regular season. Kudla mentioned these all being season-long goals and something the team would think and work toward each week. However, that long list of goals still has a few boxes that are yet to be checked off, the most important being a PSAC Championship.
Last year, Slippery Rock fell short against three teams, the obvious IUP, Shepherd University and finally Kutztown University. Kutztown has defeated each one of their PSAC East opponents this year and looks to spoil The Rock’s incredible run.
Kudla and his team know what lies ahead and are excited for yet another challenge.
“One of our program goals every year we set is win the West, we’ve got that first goal done,” Kudla said. “Second, is to win the PSAC title game, unfinished business, lost to Kutztown (last year). It’s a little bit of redemptive type feeling.”
The Rock goes into this game riding high after closing out the season against Edinboro University defeating them handily, 56-18.
Kudla and the team know that the sky is the limit. Staying focused each and every week without looking ahead is of top priority.
“I think there’s a firm belief in our group that we can get the job done if we play to our standard and keep our program values in the forefront,” Kudla said.
It is clear that the effect Kudla has on the field is prominent. He has made his presence known since game one against Wayne State University and continued to grow from there.
What makes Kudla special is not just his raw talent. It is his love for the game and everyone around him. This bond created by this roster is the reason this Slippery Rock team is where they are.
“The differences that make us unique have also led us to be very tight as a brotherhood,” Kudla said.