|Brittany Ryan has outdone all previous female
college football kickers.
File photo by Lou Rabito, d3photography.com
She doesn’t want the hype.
She doesn’t want to be the center of attention because humility seems to be one of her best qualities.
She just wants to be like the rest of her teammates, with one goal -- to win football games.
She doesn’t want to be seen as a female football player -- just as a football player.
“She” is Brittany Ryan, the kicker for the Lebanon Valley Dutchmen in the Middle Athletic Conference.
The senior was back in the news a week ago after breaking West Alabama kicker Tonya Butler’s record for points by a female kicker with 88 points.
Last week, Ryan earned her first MAC special teams player of the week award after breaking Butler’s record in a 21-6 win against Moravian. But, even being prodded, she really didn’t want to talk about the record. She wanted to talk about how her team beat Moravian.
“It’s been in the back of my mind but mostly I’ve been thinking about coming away with a win,” Ryan said. “The team worked hard all week, and I think we really deserved this,” she said on godutchmen.com, the official athletics site for LVC.
Ryan has had her share of the spotlight in the past few years, including being in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd twice, once in high school. She also was interviewed by legendary New York Times sportswriter George Vecsey for a story last August.
But to get the real story, you need to start at the beginning.
Ryan, from Easton, Pa., was like many girls, playing sports from a young age.
“I started playing soccer from when I was about 4 or 5 years old,” Ryan said in a telephone interview last week.
As a senior, Ryan decided to try out for the football team when she found out they needed a reliable kicker. And coach Steve Shiffert got a ton of production out of her, as she was named honorable mention on the Pennsylvania all-state team, scoring 52 points.
She was also named homecoming queen.
“The first time both the king and queen played football,” Lebanon Valley coach Jim Monos said, laughing.
At that point, Ryan, who was the president of the National Honor Society, thought football was over. She applied to colleges near and far from Easton, such as Penn State and Clemson.
“LVC wasn’t really on the radar,” Ryan said.
One day, however, inside linebackers coach Vince Pantalone came to Easton on a recruiting trip and Shiffert set up Ryan to meet with him about Lebanon Valley, about 90 minutes west in Annville.
“He expressed interest in me coming to Lebanon Valley and that got the ball rolling,” Ryan said.
A brief history of female kickers
• First female at NCAA spring football practice - Rhetta
Froedge, Western Kentucky, Spring 1976 (place kicker)
Monos said she came to campus and liked what she saw and decided to come to play football as well.
“I wasn’t sure what to think at first,” Monos said.
But Monos’ uneasiness was allayed right away when he saw her dedication to the sport.
“She does everything we ask her to do, she does all the conditioning, lifts weights with us, the whole thing,” Monos said.
Conditioning brought its own worries. Lebanon Valley does some of their offseason workouts in the pool and Monos was concerned at first having 40 guys in the pool doing their workouts. But it was short-lived.
“She was extremely appropriate and the guys never said a word,” Monos said.
Other issues have popped up at various times, but all have been quickly fixed.
“We needed to make sure she had a locker room to dress in, and we have to call ahead when we’re on the road to have facilities available,” Monos said. “She never asked for it, it’s just part of the deal.”
Right away as a freshman, Ryan ran into some adversity on the field. She wasn’t playing and frustration was starting to set in.
“She wasn’t playing because her kicking was low and inconsistent. Eventually she came to me and asked, ‘What do I have to do (to get on the field)?’” Monos said.
In the next game against Albright, the kicker missed an extra point, so Monos told Ryan she was in. She’s been kicking ever since for the Dutchmen.
“I saw the opportunity to get in and kick, and my goal is just to make as many as possible,” Ryan said. “I just need to continue to perform.”
As a rare female in a male sport, Ryan has had to deal with some unsportsmanlike behavior on the field, and even some embarrassment, as a referee called her ‘son’ when she was a freshman getting ready to kick.
But Monos said Ryan has a good sense about it most of the time.
“One game a couple of years ago, if you watch the film, a guy for the other team said something to Brittany and she whips around and says something back,” Monos said. “She doesn’t back down from anything.”
One place where that gets her in trouble is if there’s a kick blocked or a botched snap.
Monos said he’s had to tell her more than once to back up and get out of the way, but Ryan tries to get in to help her team in any way she can.
“We had a kick blocked last year, and she went for the ball,” Monos said. “I told her that wasn’t necessary.”
“I haven’t been hit in a few years,” Ryan admitted.
She’s also a model student as well, reinforcing the NCAA’s motto that hundreds of thousands of student-athletes will be doing something other than sports after they graduate.
Ryan, who has been the Lebanon Valley College honor roll throughout her college career, is majoring in Business Administration and hoping to get an internship with the Hershey Candy company. She was also named to the MAC Honor Roll last year.
“Last spring, Brittany studied abroad. She’s an outstanding student and tutors for our study hall,” Monos said.
Most have supported Ryan in her football endeavor, most importantly her teammates and her friends.
“My teammates are like my brothers,” Ryan said. “I felt pressure at first, but they’ve all been behind me.”
Monos said Ryan is one of the more popular students at the small eastern Pennsylvania campus.
“She’s in a lot of different groups, she’s very well liked here at LVC,” Monos said.
Going into this weekend’s matchup on the road at nationally ranked Delaware Valley, Ryan is two PATs short of the all-time LVC record, which stands at 77. So, suffice it to say, Ryan will probably be in the news again. Not that she wants to be.
Unless it’s talking about her team pulling the major upset.
Below: Ryan talks after the Moravian game -- starting at the 2:56 mark.
Trophy games, already?
WPI took advantage of a sloppy RPI offense and won the Transit Trophy for the first time since 1996 with a 24-10 win in the matchup of Engineers.
WPI running back Ernie Mello had a career high 129 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries as the WPI Engineers move to 3-1 overall. RPI is struggling a bit at 1-2.
Also in the Liberty League, Union running back Chris Coney surpassed the 3,000-yard mark for his career in the Dutchmen’s 16-14 win over Rochester. Coney rushed for 157 yards on the day and only trails Tom Arcidiacono, George Beebe and Chris Irving on Union’s all-time list.
Blaise Ancona kicked three field goals to lead Union.
Tyler Olsson booted home a 45-yard field goal as time expired as The College of New Jersey beat Brockport State 24-21. That’s a legitimate-sized kick at any level.
Top 25 roundup
Montclair State moved up from 19 to 17 in the D3football.com Top 25 after a 42-6 win over NJAC conference opponent Morrisville State. Junior quarterback Tom Fischer had an efficient day against the Mustangs, completing 20 of 26 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns as the Red Hawks move to 3-0 on the season. MSU has won 11 NJAC games in a row dating back to last year.
St. John Fisher crashed the Top 25 party after a somewhat surprising 34-14 win over Hobart at the first-ever night game at Boswell Field.
Freshman Cardinals running back FuQuan Borum ran for a career-high 177 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. Hobart freshman running back Steven Webb ran for more than 100 yards and also had more than 100 yards receiving, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Cardinals.
According to Hobart, it was the first time anyone in program history and rushed and received for more than 100 yards in the same game. Remember Steven Webb’s name -- Division III fans will be talking about him for the next four years.
Alfred beat Springfield on a late touchdown from sophomore running back Chris Lopez, but still fell from 23 into a tie for 25th in the D3football.com poll. Freshman running back Austin Dwyer was the leading rusher for the Saxons, running for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against the Pride defense. Dwyer also had a third touchdown through the air.
Springfield, who came into the game as the third-highest rushing team in Division III at over 400 yards per game, was “held” to 309 on Saturday, nearly 100 below their average.
Cortland State remains just outside the Top 25, and the Red Dragons did absolutely nothing to hurt their standing on Saturday, blanking Western Connecticut 45-0. Justin Autera and Anthony Giuliano led Cortland -- Autera with two touchdowns on the ground and Giuliano with 186 all-purpose yards. The Cortland defense was also stout, holding Western Connecticut to 110 yards of offense on the day.
Never giving up
Buffalo State faced a 26-7 deficit in the second half against Kean on Saturday, but the Bengals wouldn’t quit.
Three scores later, Buffalo State led 29-26, and looked to be on its way to its first victory of 2010. However, Kean’s Justin McLendon returned a kickoff 85 yards for the eventual game-winning points in Kean’s 33-29 win.
Senior running back Jay Gwaltney ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries and junior Jamahl Williams had two interception for the second game this year.
Lycoming and Ithaca went toe-to-toe for 60 minutes on Saturday, but it was the toe of Lycoming kicker T.J. Chiarolonza that was the key for the Warriors. Despite missing an extra point earlier in the game, Chiarolonza kicked a 23-yard field goal with seven seconds left to give Lycoming a 26-24 win against the Bombers.
The game, which could be considered a mild upset, was anything but in the rushing totals. Lycoming held Ithaca to -14 yards rushing and senior Josh Kleinfelter rushed for 193 yards on 32 carries.
Kleinfelter moved into second place on the school’s all-time rushing list, passing Tim Deasey (1998-2001). Kleinfelter has 2,942 yards in his career.
Rowan backup quarterback Tim Hagerty came in late in the first quarter, and racked up 205 all-purpose yards in the Profs’ 12-7 win over William Paterson.
St. Lawrence retained the Hoffman Cup against the Merchant Marine Academy in a 13-6 win. The Saints sacked quarterback Derrick Ventre nine times to secure new coach Mark Raymond’s first victory at the helm.
Ryan Fedo had a career-high 10 tackles, four behind the line of scrimmage.
Utica moved to 4-0 with a 24-10 win over Wilkes at Homecoming. Freshman Justin Becker, who came into the contest with two carries in the first three games, came in for Jake Scott, who was banged up, and picked up the slack nicely, rushing for 117 yards on only 13 carries.
This Saturday will be the real test for the Pioneers, as the nationally ranked St. John Fisher Cardinals come to Gaetano Stadium for Utica’s first-ever home night game. Their performance against Fisher will tell if they’ve really turned things around. As an alum, I want to say they have, but the performance against the top teams -- Ithaca, St. John Fisher, Alfred -- has to be there first. So I’m excited, but also tempering my expectations.