In baseball, it's no secret that players who grow up in the south or in California have an inherent advantage over those who do so in the northeast due to obvious differences in weather conditions. Those same advantages aren't necessarily thought of when it comes to football, but that is very much the case for kickers.
So, when Chad Ryland showed up at Kohl's Kicking Camp as a high school prospect, the director took an immediate liking to him.
"Generally, kids down south have a little bit of an advantage because they are able to spend more time working on their craft due to the weather," said Jamie Kohl, the camp's director. "Chad came to us from a region in the United States that is much harder to develop being from the northeast. He showed right away that he had the maturity and mental toughness to make it, and I think part of that was from the environment he was forced to kick in."
That's great news for the Patriots since he will be doing the lion's share of his work in less-than-ideal conditions in Foxborough and other bad weather locales. It's also one of the reasons Bill Belichick thought enough of Ryland to move up in the fourth round (112th overall) to grab the big-legged kicker, who spent four years at Eastern Michigan before completing his college eligibility at Maryland in 2022.
Ryland grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and played baseball and soccer at Cedar Crest High School while also serving as the kicker on the football team. Kohl says Ryland started separated himself from many of the other high school prospects due to his ability to connect for long distance and to do so in windy conditions.
That led Jay Nunez, the well-respected special teams coach at Eastern Michigan, to give him a shot. Ryland did the rest, enjoying four strong years in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he connected on 44 of 54 field goals over his final three seasons. When Nunez left for Oklahoma, Ryland decided to finish his career at Maryland, where he hit 19 of 23 field goals for the Terrapins.
"I mean, he's a pro. If he would have stayed his last year, he would have gotten a significant amount of captain votes," EMU head coach Chris Creighton said. "There are other kickers and punters that have been captains before but you know, you don't see that all the time. I mean the amount of respect that he had from all of us for how serious he was about his craft was significant.
"He's a very mature kid. I just think he came out of the womb mature. Our kickers are recruited walk-ons and then they have to earn it. Chad just had the right disposition, the right demeanor. He is laser focused. At the same time, he is not emotional. It's his mindset. I mean, he is unflappable. He's just not rattled. He knows his process. He's been doing it now for five or six years at a high level, and just knows it and believes in it. So, he's just a pro."
Kohl certainly agrees with that assessment. He saw it firsthand when Ryland was asked to join one of his partners, Luke Radke, on a road trip across the country to help find and develop high school kickers.
"It's a grind," Kohl explained. "It's long days on the field followed by five or six-hour drives to the next city for seven straight days. Rather than sit at school, do an hour or hour and a half workout, and go home and play X-box, he embraced the opportunity to help coach and work with kids. You start to work on techniques and improving your habits and start to understand why some of the things are important to adhere to. I think you become a more mature individual.
"It's like the 10,000-hour rule. Chad always had a hand in that. Whatever was needed. Chad always wanted to help out knowing in reality he was becoming a better player by going through this process. How can I become a better player? That's why we like him so much. He loves the process."
That process will take him to Foxborough, where he is expected to unseat veteran Nick Folk as the primary kicker. He has the ability to kick off, something the 38-year-old Folk struggled with down the stretch last season, notching touchbacks on 51 of 73 attempts in college. The two will ostensibly compete for the job, but the investment in Ryland gives him the inside track – although fifth-round pick Justin Rohrwasser was a disaster in camp two years ago and never came close to winning the job.
Still, Ryland's combination of mental toughness and experience working in harsh weather should prepare him well for the next level.
"I think in New England that's a big part of this," Kohl said of the mental side. "He's going to work in the dark and trust his process and have faith and confidence. Obviously with New England they have a lot of very highly respected coaches in that building and they felt comfortable enough to use a high draft pick on Chad.
"He's trying to replace a guy in Nick Folk who did a great job for the Patriots and been in the league for a long time. Clearly when you talk to other NFL teams, Chad was either one or two on everyone's draft board. He's a good player and now it's a matter earning the trust of coaches."
Patriots Draft Pick Profile
Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Selected: 4th round, 112th overall
Strengths: Five years of kicking experience in college, including plenty of bad-weather experience. … Big leg with the ability to kick off as well. … Connected on 67 percent of his attempts from 50-plus yards (6 of 9). … Effective hang time on kickoffs led to touchbacks on 51 of his 73 attempts.
Weaknesses: Struggled with consistency at times. … Will need to refine his accuracy, particularly from the hashes. … Little experience with directional kickoffs.
Personal: Attended Cedar Crest (Pa.) High School. … Began his collegiate career at Eastern Michigan (2018-21) before finishing at Maryland in 2022. … Earned second-team All-Mid-American Conference honors in 2020 at Eastern Michigan and second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2022 at Maryland. … Teammates with fellow draft pick Sidy Sow (fourth round, 117th overall) at Eastern Michigan. … Also played baseball and soccer in high school. … Twitter handle is @C_Ryland38.
Comparable NFL player: Bengals K Evan MacPherson – Some similarities in body type and ball striking talent as well as personality.
By the numbers
|Combine Average for Position
|40 Yards: 5.0
|Bench (225): na
|Vertical Jump: na
|Long Jump: na
What they're saying …
"He's one of those guys you can hear it. When Chad puts his foot into it, there is a different sound than some of those other guys." – Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy
View photos of Patriots fourth round pick, kicker Chad Ryland in action at Maryland.
DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer