Undersized receiver Kalil Pimpleton uses 'heart over height' to become positive presence, impact player


Central Michigan wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton celebrates with JaCorey Sullivan after a catch against Toledo Nov. 29 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

When Quinten Dormady took his visit to Central Michigan, many were interested in how the rare sixth-year double graduate transfer would blend in with his prospective teammates. 

There was one Chippewa in particular excited to see Dormady, one who knew right away the impact an experienced quarterback could provide the team.

That player was sophomore receiver Kalil Pimpleton. 

As a Virginia Tech transfer who sat out the entire 2018 season, a year in which he watched his teammates suffer through a program worst 1-11 season, Pimpleton knew something needed to change and figured a quarterback like Dormady could be the difference-maker.

"I didn't know a whole lot about Q before he got here," Pimpleton said. "My first impression of him was that he was a good dude."

While he doesn't remember exactly what was said during Dormady's visit, he and the rest of the Chippewas are pleased with the end result. 

"I guess he had a good visit," Pimpleton said, chuckling. "I mean, he decided to come here."

Pimpleton himself made a decision to come to Central Michigan just a season prior, returning to his home state after a season with the Hokies. 

Pimpleton cited a chance to play with high school teammates JaCorey Sullivan and Andrew Ward, his mother motivating him and a chance to improve himself as reasons to become a Chippewa. 

Throughout last season, Pimpleton was a menace on the Chippewa scout team. Stories of his speed and playmaking ability spread throughout the fan base that built anticipation for his on-field debut.

Pimpleton was more concentrated on building balance with his new quarterback.

"I knew he (Dormady) was gonna be my quarterback for this season, so I might as well try to build a good relationship with him," Pimpleton said. 

Pimpleton scored a touchdown in his CMU debut but didn't truly burst onto the scene until a victory over Akron in the Chippewas third game of the season. In that triumph, the receiver caught seven passes for 116 yards and a score while also completing a pass to Tyrone Scott for 28 yards.

"Last season, that left a bitter taste in not only my teammates' mouth but my mouth, I was part of that team," Pimpleton said. "Going worst to first, it's been a blessing."

Despite being listed at just 5-foot-9, the Muskegon native caught 73 passes for 771 yards, both of which were conference highs, and six scores. When the All-Mid-American Conference teams were released on Tuesday, Pimpleton found his name on the First Team for offense and special teams.

"It's always been heart over height," Pimpleton said. "I always look past the height. It's all about the heart." 

For first-year coach Jim McElwain, Pimpleton's impact goes beyond the football field.

In McElwain's office, he has a picture of the 1979 national championship from their return to campus for their 40th anniversary. What stands out in that picture to the first-year coach isn't the congregation of former players – it's the big smile of his sophomore receiver. 

"I'm glad he's a Chippewa," McElwain said. "If I'm ever having a bad day I want him around. He brings the best out of me as he does this whole team."

Ditto for Pimpleton. 

"That's my guy," Pimpleton said of McElwain. "He's always laughing when I'm around him. He always puts a smile on my face just like I put a smile on his."

When Pimpleton takes the field on Saturday, it will be his second time doing so. In his first appearance, as a high school quarterback with Muskegon, his Big Reds lost in heartbreaking fashion to Orchard Lake Saint Mary's high school.

"I've been there a couple of times and never came out with a W," Pimpleton said. "This time I'm determined to come out with it."

Pimpleton has many different reasons to be motivated heading into Saturday's championship tilt with Miami (Ohio). Even though outside eyes find various reasons to count him out, Pimpleton pays no attention to the outside noise. 

"It's always been heart over height, ever since I was this big," Pimpleton reiterated while holding his hand down by his kneecap. 

After being counted out for so long, Pimpleton has begun to show the masses why he can be counted on at the highest level.