|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.
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