Former Mesa High School star Kyler Fackrell had a standout career at outside linebacker for Utah State.
INDIANAPOLIS – Like other football recruits, Kyler Fackrell spent time after high school graduation priming for the next stage of his life.
For his fellow athletes, those ensuing months meant enrolling in college, joining the football program and either redshirting or contributing on the field. Fackrell, a star player for Mesa High School in 2009, spent the next calendar year, quite literally, just priming.
"I painted houses," Fackrell said. "We'd go all over (Phoenix). I worked for this company – well, it was just me and the boss. We went all over the place. His name was Daniel Crookston and he lived an hour and a half away, so we had to coordinate."
Fackrell eventually made his way to Utah State, became a solid player and jumped onto the NFL radar. The outside linebacker will meet with prospective employers at the NFL Scouting combine, and is expected to be selected somewhere within the first three rounds of the draft.
But more than a half-decade ago, Fackrell was just a kid trying to make some extra money while deciding whether to accept his lone college scholarship offer or go on a church mission. His mom found a connection at work that summer, and before long, Fackrell was a painter.
"They were these crazy, big, nice houses," Fackrell said. "I remember there was one in the orange groves closer to Mountain View (High School in Mesa). It was this huge Mexican style house, and we actually painted these stone pillars. They had us paint those, which I thought was weird. I didn't know you could even paint them."
It's clearly been an atypical journey for Fackrell from Mesa to the NFL. He led his high school football team to a state championship game appearance as a senior but the college interest never picked up. National Letter of Intent Signing Day came and went, and it wasn't until later that Utah State offered a scholarship.
"I think probably the main problem was I viewed myself as an offensive player, as a receiver," Fackrell said. "I wasn't overly fast for a receiver in college and I played safety on defense. I guess a lot of teams didn't see that translating. I'm glad Utah State did. They saw the frame and athleticism and put me at the outside 'backer spot."
After the year-long hiatus, Fackrell enrolled at Utah State in 2011. The school wasn't planning on him for that recruiting cycle, so he was a walk-on until a scholarship opened up in the fall.
Fackrell redshirted his first year but then it all came together. His gangly frame filled in, and the former bouncy skill athlete became a 6-foot-5, 250-pound bruiser. Fackrell earned Freshman All-America honors by accumulating 87 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions in 2012.
"The first thing I noticed when I got up to the college level was how big and how fast the big guys were," Fackrell said. "I was probably the tallest guy on our team in high school, and here every O-lineman was taller and bigger and really athletic.
"So to go out and have success on the field was a huge blessing and a blast. It was crazy when people started talking (about the NFL). It was a little weird at first. … I don't know that I thought of it as a true, real possibility until I got to college. After my first year starting is when I realized it was attainable."
Fackrell was consistent as a sophomore and then planned to play well as a junior and leave early for the NFL draft, but he tore his ACL in the season opener. He proved the knee injury was fully healed last year, but it cost him precious time.
Between the painting hiatus and the five years at college, Fackrell enters the draft as a rare 24-year-old prospect.
"I've heard, 'You're pretty old coming out,'" Fackrell said. "If I hadn't taken that year I would have been a year younger. A lot of people would say it may not have been the best way, but I'm happy with where I am right now."
While Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim prefers younger players, he didn't dismiss the idea of drafting an older prospect.
"I think you always want the 19-, 20-, 21-year-old players if you can do that, and grow with them," Keim said. "But at the same time, it comes down to the individual. I don't see any issues with the guy who is 24, 25 years old as long as they have the right intangibles."
Fackrell will do his on-field workout Sunday, and he's hoping to show the tools of a consistent edge-rusher. While his career sack total of 12 doesn't jump off the page, Fackrell said he was used in coverage about half the time.
"(Pass-rushing) is probably one of the bigger strengths of my game," Fackrell said. "I do have length and I have speed off the edge, and then I also have that versatility. I can act like I'm coming up and drop when it's not expected."
Fackrell won't have as much to prove in the interview portion. He lacks an ego and has a wife and a child at home. He's older than most of his fellow prospects and likely more mature.
"I haven't had any issues off the field or anything like that," Fackrell said. "They can trust I'm a family guy. I'm not going to be going out and partying. I'm going to go home to my family."
If Fackrell is ever caught painting the town, it will be with a brush in his hand.
Images of Cardinals players during their past workouts at the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis