“Had to deal with that all year,” Kyle recalls now.
Over time, the young player became sensitive to the suggestion that any triumph had been greased by his father’s accomplishments, not his own.
“Whether it’s real or not,” he says, “it’s going to be my last name.”
Still, he wanted to be a football player, and who better to ask for direction than a coach who had won two Super Bowls? Kyle was a high school quarterback in the mid-1990s when he argued with his dad, insisting that he was doing everything possible to improve his speed and passing. The elder Shanahan shook his head, telling the boy that results were the offspring of work and time.
“You want a career in football,” Mike recalls telling him, “you’ve got to go out there and earn it.”
Mike Shanahan outlined for his only son — Mike and Peggy Shanahan also have a daughter, Krystal — a training regimen worthy of an NFL player: five days a week, throughout he summer. Be at the track at specific times, for specific lengths of time, and do exactly what the plan called for. Kyle committed himself, interrupting gatherings with friends to run and practice his passing.
“Just kept doing it and kept doing it,” he says, and when the season began, his times were faster and his throws more crisp.
Years earlier, Mike was disappointed in his eighth-grade son’s time, a little less than eight minutes, in the mile run. He again put him on a six-week, hour-a-day program. Forty- and 100-yard dashes, quarter-mile sprints, and when the program was over, Mike says proudly, Kyle ran the mile in 5 minutes 32 seconds.
“Beat everybody by well over 100 yards,” Mike says.
Kyle’s training led to a scholarship offer at Duke, but Kyle wanted a greater challenge – preferably away from Denver, where “Shanahan” was more than just a name. He transfered from Duke and walked on as a receiver at Texas in 2000, eventually earning a scholarship. Thomas, the former Longhorns player, says Kyle wasn’t the team’s most athletic player, but his dedication made him one of its most advanced.
“It took us all through college to figure out what he already knew,” Thomas says.
He later went to Brown, the Texas coach, with the same questions he’d asked his dad: Why had coaches done this? What else had they considered?