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June 4, 2010Columbus, Ind., quarterback Gunner Kiel is already one of the best quarterbacks in the Hoosier state. By his senior year, he could be one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the nation. By the time his football days are over, he might be the most decorated quarterback in his family.
That last accolade carries the most weight.
Trace down the Kiel family tree. Start by finding Gunner, and go to the right and left. Brothers Drew and Dusty both quarterbacked Columbus East before Gunner. Both moved on to quarterback college teams: Drew Kiel, the oldest, is entering his senior year at Illinois State, and Dusty Kiel, a three-star recruit in 2009, is entering his sophomore year at Indiana.
It doesn't stop there, however. Trace up to dad Kip Kiel. He was a starting quarterback for the Olympians as well, and went on to play for Butler University. Both his brothers also played at Columbus East, with older brother Blair Kiel turning his high school success into four-starting years at Notre Dame.
But now, it's the youngest Kiel's turn. A prototypical quarterback at 6-foot-4, 190-pounds, Gunner Kiel picked up seven BCS offers before his sophomore year ended.
"My family's always been a big football family," Kiel said. "They've always impacted it on the way that we play. My dad's always been a big influence on me, working out and putting in the hours on getting better."
Kiel's development into the player he is today started early. While his two older brothers were being tutored by noted quarterback's coach Skip Stitzell, Gunner Kiel watched from the sidelines, mimicking the workouts, waiting his turn.
Stitzell, who recently reconnected with the Kiel family, said Gunner's development was visible immediately.
"He just kind of took some of that stuff with him," Stitzell said. "Having two older brothers who are Division I, I-AA quarterbacks is a big help, too."
The three Kiel brothers, staggered by five years between the oldest and youngest, fought off quarterback controversies in Columbus because of that age gap. That doesn't mean everything was cordial off the field, according to their father and mother, Aleta Kiel.
"They were pretty competitive at home," Kip Kiel said through a chuckle.
Because his brothers were recruited by various college programs, Gunner Kiel benefitted from the exposure to college coaches at an early age. Combined with his size and arm strength, which was on display during Missouri's team camp on Thursday afternoon, it's easy to see why the youngest Kiel is quickly becoming the most sought-after.
At the Devine Indoor Facility -- named after Dan Devine, who uncle Blair played for at Notre Dame -- Kiel made a variety of throws out of the shotgun. After under-throwing his first receiver ("Had to get those early jitters out of the way," Stitzell said), the junior-to-be showed his arm strength that's drawn praise from the other camps he's attended so far.
"Kiel was one of the stronger arms on the day as he put serious zip on his passes," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every said after the recent Columbus Elite 11 combine.
Despite the attention and offers, Kiel is taking his ever-growing fame in stride. He lists no favorites at this point, although he mentioned Missouri is "up there." Right now, he's more focused on his impending junior campaign, and the implications strong summer workouts will have on his team.
"Hopefully we'll go pretty far," Kiel said. "Hopefully we'll go undefeated and win our conference.
"There's always room for improvement."
If that improvement continues, the last will be the best for the Kiel family.