INDIANAPOLIS | TideSports.com caught up with Columbus, Ind., quarterback Gunner Kiel for an exclusive interview with the nation's top signal caller.
In part one of the interview, Kiel talks about recruiting, the University of Alabama and his visits to Tuscaloosa. Part two will be coming on Tuesday.
Kiel, the No. 19 player nationally on Rivals.com, plans to make his college decision this month.
Q: How's recruiting going for you?
A: I don't let it get to me. I like to spend time with my friends and teammates. I like to interact with them and try to get ready for next season. Recruiting is going to be there, and I'm still thinking about it, but I just try to be a normal kid, too, and do normal things.
Q: What are the main factors you're looking for when choosing a school?
A: I have three main things. I want to get the best education, and I can't really go wrong with any place I pick. I want a family atmosphere where everyone is really down to earth, and I can go in and fit in perfect. The guys around me are going to be awesome, and then the coaching staff is going to be right beside me every single day and not just rip me. I want somebody to teach me up and teach me the way so I can learn and become a better player. That's really the three things I'm looking for is the education, the players and the coaching staff.
Q: Do you have any favorites?
A: There's a few, but right now I'm keeping it personal with my family. We talk about it and stuff. Whenever the time is ready to commit, I'm not going to do a big thing. I'm just going to tell my family, my friends and teammates, and my coaches, and it will get out.
Q: Talk about Alabama. What do you like about their program?
A: I love the coaches. Getting to know Coach (Jim) McElwain and Coach (Mike) Groh was awesome. They're definitely great guys, and I picked up on their offense pretty well when they went over it. They know what they want, and that's to win football games. The campus is beautiful. Everything about it is great. It's an awesome place.
Q: What's your thoughts on Coach McElwain and what kind of guy he is?
A: He's awesome. He's a great guy. We talk about football stuff, but whenever we talk, he always starts off cracking a joke, which is awesome. We just talk about what I'm doing, what he's doing. We tell jokes and tell stories. That's what I like to have in a coach.
Q: As far as the pro-style offense down there, is that what you're looking for?
A: We're a spread team, but I'm pretty open. I don't really care to be honest. I'll go under (center) and take a drop, which I'm fine doing. What they have is awesome. They're going to run the ball more than they throw, which is fine. They also have a great offensive line, and they're always going to have great players just because of how awesome they are and how big they are, which is always good for a quarterback. It's a special place.
Q: How is Coach (Nick) Saban when you've met with him in person?
A: Whenever I talk to him, it's like I'm trying to take it serious, and every once in awhile I can see myself smile and it's like that's Coach Saban, that's Nick Saban. I never thought that would happen. You see him on TV and stuff, but when you meet him in person, that's completely different. He's a good guy. He's kind of settled, but whenever he's on the field, he's loud and upbeat with his guys, which is awesome.
Q: Talk about the tradition at Alabama.
A: They're definitely known for winning football games. With 13 national championships, that's awesome. Whenever you go down there, you're going to get great players and you're going to win football games, which is something I always want to do because I'm a strong competitor and want to win. They have a strong tradition of winning. Coach (Nick) Saban definitely stresses that a lot with his team, and I can see that.
Q: How do you like Bryant-Denny Stadium and the facilities?
A: (Bryant-Denny) is huge. It's enormous. The weight room is awesome, with Coach (Scott) Cochran, too. He gets after it. He yells a lot, which is awesome. He'll be in mid-sentence, and he'll just start yelling. You're like this guy is firing me up already.
Q: I know you visited last fall for the Georgia State game. How was that?
A: Even though they were playing a smaller team, there was a full crowd, and everybody was going nuts, which was awesome. Bryant-Denny is enormous. It's so big, and people were just erupting. The ESPN crew was down there, so I got to see all of those guys. It's kind of a funny story. I got the email (asking to visit) on a Tuesday, and when my dad told me, I was like 'let's go.' It was a Thursday game, and I had nothing.
Q: On your most recent visit, what did you think when you saw the devastation from the tornado?
A: It was unreal. You looked on one side of the street, and it was fine. You looked on the other side of the street, and it's completely gone. You've got the Hobby Lobby tipped over. You see the movie 'Twister', and then you go and see that, and it's literally just like it. Who would've called that? I know that they're such a strong community that it's going to get rebuilt. That's what's awesome about Alabama is that they're such a big family, and they're going to make that place 10 times better now.
Q: Do you have plans to come back to Tuscaloosa soon?
A: To be honest, right now I'm just spending time with my team. I really have no idea what the future holds. I haven't really made up mind about camps, but I'm going to put my team ahead of me and this any day. I have one more year left. I don't want them to think that I have a big head and that I'm cocky. I'm still going to be a team player.
Reach Greg Ostendorf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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