“When I first got here, he was a tall, skinny wide receiver,” James said. “So his junior year, I said ‘let’s move him to tight end and put some weight on him’ and man he flourished at that position.”
Now, he is a 6-foot-5, 245-pound matchup nightmare.
It only took one year at his new position for him to blow up in the recruiting world. He went to a few camps last summer as a tight end, but he had no game film, so coaches were hesitant. But after his junior season, the offers poured in.
“He was getting offers from all over the country,” James said.
Kaiuway could have played anywhere in the country, but he wanted to stay close to home. The first order of business for him was to decide what parts of the country he would like to play in, so he and Coach James sat down and mapped out what areas he was looking for.
“Right off the bat he said he wanted to stay within a very close radius of home,” James said. “In his mind, his options went as far south as Austin, as far north as Norman, as far west as Lubbock and as far east as Louisiana. Staying close to home was his biggest thing.”
In May, he committed to TCU. He chose the Horned Frogs over schools like Texas Tech, North Carolina, Texas, Miami and Auburn. Kaiuway liked that Fort Worth was so close, but he also liked the new coaching staff for the Frogs and the schemes that they ran previously at SMU.
“I chose TCU so I could stay close to my family,” Lafayette said. “I also had great connections with the entire coaching staff at TCU. – I watched Grant Calcaterra at SMU [with Dykes] and I thought I could do all the stuff that he was doing, from blocking to route running.”
Last year at SMU, Calcaterra was listed at 6-5, 247-pounds; almost identical to Kaiuway. Calcaterra is a nearly perfect comparison for Lafayette. Both have the ability to hurt you in multiple ways; obviously in the passing game, but also, in run-blocking.
As a wide receiver, Kaiuway was a great run-blocker. The concern for James was how well he could block on the line, out of a three-point stance. Instead of blocking corners and safeties, he would have to block defensive linemen and linebackers. But he worked hard at blocking off the line and it quickly became one of his biggest strengths.
“He took a liking to blocking,” James said. “He really wanted to learn how to block because he knew for him, that’s what all the colleges were waiting on. They knew he could run routes, they knew he could catch the ball, but the biggest question mark was the run-blocking. He has worked really hard at his technique and that basically took him from a dime-a-dozen wide receiver to a one-in-10 tight end.”
James also feels that the TCU offense, led by Sonny Dykes, Garrett Riley and Doug Meachum, is perfect for his big tight end.
“I took him to an SMU game last year and we were watching how they were using their tight ends,” James said. “They had at least one tight end on the field 100 percent of the time, and two tight ends on the field half the time. For someone like him, that was exciting to be able to have the opportunity to be on the field as a tight end. He loved Coach Riley and Coach Dykes’ system and I think that was the ultimate factor for him.”
Just by talking to him, you probably would not be able to tell that Kaiuway held offers from programs all around America and is ranked as the third best tight end in Texas. James described as an unselfish person, in a “look at me” world on social media. Kaiuway is a player who uses action more than words.
“He’s not a big talker, he’s not a rah-rah guy,” James said. “He shows up daily, he’s consistent and he works hard.”
His leadership ability also sticks out to his head coach. Kaiuway has taken on the big brother role as the younger guys, primarily receivers, look up to him daily. He is always willing to help his teammates; that the type of guy every team wants and needs.
“A lot of kids on this team look to him,” James said.
For the TCU fans that may be curious, his coach says the Frogs are getting a kid who loves the game and is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. Kaiuway says TCU is getting a big, physical guy who plays right on the field, and takes care of business off of the field. He feels confident in Dykes and his staff and believes they can bring TCU back to the championship level play that it has seen in the past.
“I like all of the people that he has brought in, the way he coaches and the way their offense runs,” Kaiuway said. “I feel like they can do a lot with it and be a threat to a lot of defenses.”
As good as he is on the field, he may be even better off of it. His coach says that he has an incredible work ethic in the classroom and is overall a great character kid.
“He is one of my favorite kids that I have been around,” James said. “And I have been around a lot of kids in 25 years. That is saying something.”
His coach also described him as family-oriented, and I have to agree with him. During the brief conversation I had with him he brought up family multiple times. He chose TCU because it gave him the opportunity to stay around his family and also because he felt like TCU had the best family atmosphere out of all of the schools that recruited him. When I asked him why he played football, he answered that he played for his family.
“I want to be the first to really do something in my family," Kaiuway said. "I want to be the guy to take care of everybody and put them in a better position.”
“He wants to be able to take care of his mom and his little brothers and sisters,” James said. “He wants to be able to provide some stability for them.”
One of his goals was to be committed to a school before his senior season so he could just focus on football. Kaiuway says he wants to make the playoffs. Arlington Sam Houston is coming off a 3-7 season and the program has not made it to the playoffs since Kaiuway has been there, and he wants to change that. Expectations for the team are low, so he and his team are determined to prove everyone wrong.
His personal goals for next season are simple and selfless.
“I just want to be playing and keep doing what I’ve been doing,” said Kaiuway. “I want to be there for the guys and be a leader.”
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