Booting into greatness.
Redshirt senior Wyatt Bryan has achieved just about all a collegiate kicker can over his lengthy career.
And he didn’t have realistic odds of doing so at the beginning.
Bryan went from redshirting his freshman season in 2014 and playing two seasons as a non-scholarship player to becoming the Rams’ all-time leading scorer.
The kicker was only a few points away from surpassing former CSU running back Steve Bartolo’s record of 294 points as he prepared to face Arkansas last Saturday. Naturally, Bryan was more focused on contributing to a potential signature victory over an SEC opponent than taking the record. However, he was aware of the circumstances before the Rams took the field.
“I knew I was only nine points away before Arkansas,” Bryan said. “So on the sideline during the game when I hit two we were all going, “One more, one more kick,” he laughed.
Bryan was born in Larkspur, CO and kicked at Douglas County High School in Castlerock. Bryan’s parents, Scott and Theresa, are Colorado State alumni, just like their son will soon be.
To put it bluntly, Colorado is in Bryan’s blood. He grew up a CSU fan, so having the opportunity to play for the Rams alone is special to him.
With that being said, when chatter regarding Bryan being only 20 points away from breaking the record began in the offseason, his first thought was that he hoped it would be at home, in front of fans from the Centennial State. Well, he got his wish.
“I was aware of it definitely after last season and during camp,” Bryan said. “I didn’t know when it was going to happen, and I was hoping it would happen at home, and it did, so that was really cool.”
Bryan’s record-breaking 44-yard kick that split the uprights puts the kicker’s work ethic into perspective. He fired on all cylinders against the Razorbacks, setting two individual records in the game by converting all four field goal attempts and also banging one in from 55-yards out.
Bryan has immensely improved over the years, which all boils down to how hard he works.
“He’s a locked-in guy,” sophomore punter Ryan Stonehouse said. “He knows his job, and he knows his role on the team. There are not many things that will distract him from his goals. He will do what he needs to do and will work on it at practice. His work ethic is super strong with whatever you need him to do.”
Speaking of Stonehouse, the relationship between the two players displays Bryan’s admirable nature. When Stonehouse made his official visit to Fort Collins before the 2017 season, Bryan hosted the punter. That was the beginning of a strong relationship on and off the field between the two.
Currently, their relationship is more powerful than ever. Unlike last season, Stonehouse is now Bryan’s holder. The punter now feels much more a part of Bryan’s game, and as a result, Stonehouse has been able to learn a lot from the redshirt senior.
“The biggest thing is that he’s so level-headed,” Stonehouse said. “Which is so good for a kicker. I’ll get super heated if I shank a punt and he’s been there to keep me level-headed and have my back if something goes wrong. That and to be able to bounce back are the biggest things he’s taught me”.
Of course, part of the job description of a kicker entails being able to persevere and bounce back, as Stonehouse mentioned.
Bryan has improved season by season. His field goal conversion percentage has improved from 72.7 in 2015 to 83.3 last season. Bryan ranked No. 21 in the country in field goal percentage last season. The Rams kicker hit 15-18 field goals and led his team in scoring with 98 points. Bryan was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, an award given to the best collegiate placekicker.
But, even all that success doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing for Bryan. He has endured countless mental battles and has had to work to maintain an ideal mindset.
For example, the Colorado native started the 2018 season by botching his only two field goal attempts against Hawaii. These misses could have been detrimental for him moving forward. However, he learned through experience how to shake off any missed kick. Even the ones that sting the most.
“You just really have to try to put it behind you,” Bryan said. “There is nothing you can do about it so you might as well not think about it. Same with the kicks you make, you can’t relish on them. People judge you on your next kick.”
Bryan has converted all six field goal attempts since playing Hawaii. At this point in the year, he’s tied for third-most converted field goals on the season. Bryan’s 55-yarder on CSU’s opening drive against Arkansas is also the longest in the FBS in 2018.
Naturally, kickers can be taken for granted. This isn’t the case at Colorado State. Stonehouse made it evident that CSU players have always cherished Bryan’s contributions.
“When he comes off the field now the conversation involves me being astonished with some of the things he’s doing,” Stonehouse said. “There are a lot of kids out there that aren’t doing that. I take him for granted here sometimes. Like he’s making kicks, he’s making kicks. But you look at other schools, and they aren’t making kicks. Some people take that for granted. I, 100 percent respect his field goals and how hard they are to make.”
Bryan is indeed at the best he’s ever been. This should come as no surprise considering his maturity and rigorous preparation. There is no better time for head coach Mike Bobo to lean on his kicker in high-pressure situations.
“Wyatt Bryan was challenged the first week. We opened up the competition, and he didn’t back down,” Bobo explained. “He came out there with a strong mental attitude…He told Coach Gibson don’t ever doubt me. I like it because he has belief in himself.”
“What a great feat, all-time leading scorer in Colorado State history,” Bobo continued. “Here is a guy that walked on and wasn’t very good when I first got here. But credit to him, he worked.”
After taking the all-time scoring mark from Steve Bartolo, the famed Rams running back, Bartolo congratulated Bryan on Twitter:
Congratulations @WyattBryan96 !!!
— Steve Bartalo (@Sbartalo) September 9, 2018