By Bill Foley
Kiley Caprara is finally feeling at home on the campus at Montana Tech.
He’s starting to look more comfortable, too.
On Monday, the 2017 Butte High graduate officially shed No. 85 for a more-fitting No. 10 on the Oredigger football team.
“It just didn’t fit me,” Caprara said of No. 85 during Monday’s media day on the Bob Green Field.
Caprara, who has packed on some muscle since he was listed at 5-foot-10, 145 pounds on the Oredigger roster, wore No. 1 when he tied Dalton Daum’s Butte High record with 76 receptions in 2016.
“I wanted that one, but I couldn’t get it,” Caprara said. No. 10, though, provided him the chance to pay tribute to his older brother, Kaedon.
“This was my brother’s number in high school,” Caprara said. “That’s why I wanted it.”
While clearly a big deal, the jersey number isn’t why Caprara is finally feeling comfortable on the football field again. After a redshirt season and a freshman campaign in which he only played on a limited bases, Caprara looks primed for a breakout season with the Orediggers.
“I’m kind of getting back in my grove and feeling more confident,” Caprara said.
Caprara’s confidence waned a bit when over his first two years at Tech.
“It is tough. You come out of high school thinking you’re one of the better ones, then you have to sit and watch,” Caprara said. “It does take a little bit of a toll on your confidence, but after a while you gain it back.”
Playing with the team in spring and during summer workouts has helped boost that confidence.
“It’s just reps,” Caprara said. “Just that gets your confidence up, just playing more. You feel like you’re doing something for the team.”
During the spring and summer and so far in camp,Caprara is turning heads with his sure hands and his route-running ability.
“It feels at home now,” Caprara said. “My freshman year, even though I lived here, felt a little weird. I feel at home now.”
Oredigger head coach Chuck Morrell said a player’s third year on campus is often the time when he finds himself. The coach said that is the case with Caprara, adding he is thriving in new offensive coordinator Kyle Samson’s offense.
“He’s going to play a ton for us this year,” Morrell said of Caprara.
Caprara, who racked up 889 yards and seven touchdowns for Butte High as a senior in 2016, likes the sound of that.
“Hopefully I get a lot of playing time because I want to help the team win,” he said. “It was weird not playing the first couple of years.”
The two years sitting behind receivers like Chris Kelly, Chris LaChance and Dion Williams was tough, but beneficial for Caprara.
“I learned a lot from watching the older players like CK, CL Smooth and Dion,” Caprara said. “I learned a lot from those guys. They helped me a lot with the schemes. They helped me learn to run routes even better than I did.”
Running good routes has long been something Caprara prided himself on.
“I always had a good thing for routes,” he said. “I like running them crisp. It’s my favorite thing. It’s a good way to get open.”
Caprara has been fine-tuning those routs while playing against what figures to be one of the top defenses in the Frontier Conference.
Battles between Caprara and all-conference defensive back Demaree Morris have been particularly fun to watch. They are also helping make Caprara a better player.
“He’s a good corner,” Caprara said of Morris. “Every time I go against him I know I have to work a little harder. I’m going against one of the best cornerbacks in the conference.
“I’ve been doing pretty good. He beats me, I bet him. It’s back and forth.”
The Orediggers are just starting their second week of practice, but Caprara said he is felling ready to start the season. Tech opens Sept. 7 at home against the College of Idaho.
“It’s going to be a good season,” Caprara said.