What’s a bigger thrill for a college student-athlete: beating a Big Ten football team with a last-second field goal, or getting a full scholarship that wipes out the last two years of a $25,000 annual tuition bill?
That’s the question we put to 2018 Cedar Crest graduate and Eastern Michigan University junior place kicker Chad Ryland earlier this week, shortly after the university awarded him a full athletic scholarship.
“I would have to say that both were equally exciting moments in my career that I will never forget,” the supply chain management major replied. “The thing is though, there is nothing like kicking field goals in high pressure situations. The adrenaline rush is like nothing else in sports. Overall, I’m just extremely blessed and fortunate enough to be doing what I’m doing.”
Ryland spent his first two years at the Ypsilanti, Michigan school as a non-scholarship player, even though he won the kicking job early in his freshman year. Since then he’s made 26 of 39 field goal attempts, the longest being 52 yards, and 76 of 79 extra point attempts.
He knows that kickers and other “specialists” are at the back of the line when it’s time to hand out a limited number of athletic scholarships. “I think everybody coming out of high school, especially as a specialist, [knows that] a lot of guys aren’t getting put on scholarship,” he said via Zoom from the EMU athletic offices. “So the big dream there is to get that [scholarship]. It’s nice to see the hard work pay off.”
There are plenty of Youtube videos showing surprised walk-on players being told they are on scholarship, then getting mobbed by joyous teammates, but Ryland got the good news in more low-key way. “We had a team meeting . . . and after the meeting [my coach] called me down . . . and asked what the specialists were planning on doing now that the season is postponed [for COVID-19 reasons],” he recalled.
Before he could answer, his coach said “To be honest, I don’t care. You’re on full ride.”
Ryland couldn’t wait to tell his parents, Debra and Todd Ryland. “I FaceTimed them as soon as I got out to the parking lot,” he said. “They were super ecstatic. It’s definitely something they’d been chatting about.”
“My dad was always the one who would roll with me to the field. My mom’s always been a huge supporter. She’s always for getting up on Saturdays and going to games. They make the trip out here.”
They’ll have to wait a few months longer for Chad’s first game as a scholarship player. Eastern Michigan is a member of the Mid-American Conference, which recently announced that it will “push” its fall 2020 football season to next spring, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Ryland is one of just two Pennsylvanians on an Eagles’ roster dominated by Michiganders and Ohioans.
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