Conneaut turned Slippery Rock standout Kyle Sheets awaits potential pro football career

Apr. 20—Kyle Sheets has come a long way.

The Springboro native and Conneaut Area Senior High School graduate went from a "Region 5 nobody" to a Division II All-American training for a potential NFL career in just a few years.

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 220-pound wide receiver tested well at a recent pro day and is looking forward to seeing what is next for him. But long before a possible professional football career, Sheets was falling in love with the sport.

Humble beginnings

Sheets began playing football in elementary school in Erie and Albion before taking the gridiron at Conneaut Valley Middle School. He fell in love with the sport before even reaching high school.

"I would be outside throwing a football to myself in the air. My dad would show me his high school tapes and I was a big Steelers fan growing up," Sheets said. "Ever since the beginning it was something I had a passion for. Even at recess with my buddies at school we'd be drawing up our own plays and stuff."

Once Sheets reached high school his talent and potential was obvious, according to then-head coach Pat Gould. Gould pushed him harder than a typical freshman and it made a lasting impact on Sheets.

"I think my reason was solely because of how much talent we saw he had and pushing him made him work even harder. And he gobbled it up. I don't think he understood why we were on his case," Gould said. "But there is no doubt he embraced it and worked even harder. As he got older his demeanor and work ethic and desire to win and play no matter what really showed."

Looking back on it, Sheets is thankful Gould pushed him so hard.

"He wasn't going to give me an option but to be great," Sheets said.

As a sophomore, Sheets has a distinct memory of something Gould said to him. It's stuck with him and he still uses it as motivation.

"He pointed at me and a couple of my buddies and called us Region 5 nobodies. That's what we were then. He called us that and I was like 'Wow, I thought I was having a good year. Now he is calling us that.' That stuck with me," Sheets said. "I wrote that down and put that places throughout my high school career. I got to Slippery Rock and wrote PSAC nobody.

"I thankfully got the honors for an All-PSAC team and it turned into Division 2 nobody. He really gave me motivation whether he knows it or not every day."

Region 5 to PSAC

The "Region 5 nobody" played wide receiver and quarterback for the Conneaut Eagles, but was recruited as a wide receiver. He attended camps at colleges such as Syracuse, Ohio State, Penn State and Mercyhurst during his summers to help his recruitment.

He had several offers to play collegiately and Sheets selected Slippery Rock. The Rock was the first team to offer the Springboro native a scholarship and he fell in love with the program.

"It was a family setting they brought. It was a type of grit we have that's similar to Conneaut. I knew it was where I wanted to go," Sheets said. "It's close to home, they win and I knew some people here so I fell in love with the program after a couple of game day visits."

Someone he knew on campus was none other than former Conneaut teammate Henry Litwin. Litwin graduated from CASH in 2016 and was on Slippery Rock's football team.

"He definitely played a role in that decision. He was on Twitter when I got my offer saying to reunite with him and stuff," Sheets said. "Going into my freshman year here he allowed me to stay at his apartment so I was with him everyday in the summer seeing how he processes things and how he worked in the offseason. I am super grateful to have him around."

The two were both wide receivers and spent a lot of time together. Sheets didn't get much playing time as a freshman, which was frustrating for the young athlete after seeing so much field time in high school. But with Litwin showing him the ropes, he was destined to see success. It helped that Sheets fell in love with the process of training.

Sheets' love for training was put to the test. Following his freshman season, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. An entire year of football was wiped out, which meant there was nothing to do except for train.

Sheets got to work with a bench press and some rusty metal plates on his porch. After benching pressing over and over again as well as conditioning, he knew he had to do more. He reached out to Gould to get in the weight room, as well as get on the field.

"We were able to, I feel like, really separate as a program then. That's when Henry was there so we'd work together, me, him and Hunter (Merritt), at CASH running stairs and doing things. The process was difficult, but when we finally got to play the first game it was so rewarding to play beside those guys," Sheets said. "We worked so hard together so once I was able to get an opportunity it meant a lot to me."

In 2021, Sheets caught 23 passes and three touchdowns, but it was 2022 when he really took off. The junior caught 54 passes for 887 yards and nine touchdowns.

He was grateful for the opportunities given to him, especially with his family in attendance. It meant all the work he put in, and sacrifices his family made over the years, were finally paying off.

"I remember scoring the first touchdown and pointing up at my parents and seeing the big group they brought to every game" Sheets said. "2022 was a big year for me. It was exciting for us as a family as well."

Collegiate stardom and beyond

If 2022 was a big year for Sheets, 2023 was galactic. The senior caught 76 passes for 1,186 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had five games with multiple touchdowns. Sheets' biggest game was against Millersville when he had 210 yards and three scores off of 12 catches.

Sheets was rewarded with an All-American selection, a first-team All-PSAC West nod and finished his career third in program history in touchdown receptions and fourth in receiving yards.

He already had the attention of NFL scouts, but he kept his focus on the task at hand, winning football games. Slippery Rock finished the season 12-2 and was ranked No. 11 in the country according to

"I kinda didn't wanna focus on it during the year, just the next game and next day at practice and things like that. I didn't want any distractions or anyone to think I thought I was some big name or person here," Sheets said. "I didn't want any of that. It was something I continuously tried to push to the side til the end of the year. Then I had no choice but to chase this. And it's a dream to chase so I'm extremely happy for it."

Since the conclusion of his NCAA career, Sheets has been preparing for a potential professional career. He trained with Terry Grossetti at a training facility in New Castle. Grossetti runs a performance training program and has an NFL Draft program each year following the college season. Numerous athletes work with Grossetti each year, including Litwin two years ago.

Sheets participated in the six-day a week program for about 10 weeks. Beyond training, Sheets worked with a nutritionist and talked to former NFL players to get a better idea of what to expect from a possible pro career.

"I remember doing some drills and getting the technique down. It was frustrating at first because I wanted to do everything as fast as I possibly could and make sure everything was perfect going into my pro day," Sheets said. "Finally at the end everything started to click."

All of his hard work paid off. He participated at Temple University's pro day on March 25. NFL scouts representing more than 20 team were present, according to Temple's athletics website. One team in particular, the Cleveland Browns, requested Sheets test at the pro day. Sheets ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, had a 37-inch vertical jump, benched 225-pounds 16 times and measured at 10-feet and 2-inches in the long jump.

"I'm not gonna say I wasn't a little nervous in the first drill we did. We were doing our vertical first. I looked around and was like 'wow this is happening.' My legs start to get a little iffy and I'm like 'cmon we can't do this,'" Sheets said. "It was great. I am extremely thankful for Temple and Cleveland for allowing me to get in there."

The next steps

The NFL Draft opens on Thursday with the first round. The second and third are Friday with rounds four through seven on Saturday. Sheets' odds of being selected are slim. He will likely receive a call after the draft concludes and sign as an undrafted free agent, like Litwin did.

"I texted Henry a couple times after my pro day for tips on what to do now," Sheets said. "I just need to stay in shape and keep fine tuning some of the route things and continuously working. Anything you can do to get one team to like you. That's all it comes down to now."

Regardless if Sheets has his name called on draft night, the entire process is bizarre for him. He's an avid Steelers fan and follows the draft process as a fan. This year, it's a bit different.

"This is still kind of weird. I am a big NFL draft guy. I do mock drafts months out and make sure I keep up," Sheets said. "It will be weird watching it. I expect a call after the draft."

Sheets plans on watching the draft with his family, a couple close friends and his girlfriend. If he gets a call and a shot at the NFL, it will be the culmination of a long journey of hard work and sacrifices.

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at