Fueled by doubt, Wyatt Bryan remains unsatisfied
Wyatt Bryan was not supposed to be a Division 1 football player. The only problem? Bryan refused to accept it, no matter how many people doubted him. Three games into his senior season, Bryan is now the all-time leader in career points for Colorado State football and closing in on a variety of other program records.
“It’s definitely a moment I will remember for the rest of my life,” Bryan said of last Saturday’s upset over Arkansas. “I was really hyped. After the game, I jumped into the crowd and everyone was patting me on the back. It was a lot of fun.”
According to Bryan, one fan even broke his leg trying to jump on the field and still reached out to fistbump the fith-year senior kicker and congratulate him on a career night.
While moments like Saturday will be unforgettable for Bryan, it has not always been a smooth ride for the Larkspur, Colo. native.
After redshirting in 2014, Bryan became the team’s starting kicker in 2015, replacing Jared Roberts, who had an extremely successful career from 2011-14. In Bryan’s first career start, the young kicker missed three field goal attempts in what ultimately was a three-point loss to Colorado in overtime (2015).
Bryan responded by making at least one field goal in CSU’s next nine games and after making only one of his first four field goal attempts, Bryan made 15 of his next 18 to finish the year. Since his freshman season, Bryan has made 32-of-40 field goals (80 percent) and is currently CSU’s most accurate kicker of all-time (77.4 percent).
According to Bryan, there was only one coach on the staff that actually believed he had the potential to become the kicker he is today though. Former CSU special teams quality control assistant, Heath Pulver had faith in Bryan from the beginning.
“Looking back, we always say that the only people that believed I could get to this point were me and coach Pulver,” Bryan said. “A lot of people of doubted me during my freshman and sophomore year…I really appreciate him always being on my side.”
Bryan originally came to CSU with Douglas County High School for a summer camp and won Pulver over with his competitive drive. At the time, Bryan was playing wide receiver, as well as handling the team’s kicking duties.
“He was the type of guy in high school that would catch a touchdown pass, kick the field goal and then kick the kickoff,” Pulver said. “I always look for athletic kickers, not just guys where all they do is kick…You like to see a guy that is competitive in multiple positions and can do multiple things.”
Now the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Eastern Washington University, Pulver is thrilled to see how his former kicker’s hard work has paid off because he knows what Bryan went through to get to this point in his career.
“Being a specialist, most of it is pretty mental,” Pulver said. “You are usually competing with yourself, or you and the ball.”
Pulver explained that specialists, especially young players, tend to fold under high pressure. Knowing this, the coaches intentionally try to simulate as many pressure situations as possible, both in high school camps and in practices throughout the season. Bryan was always the kind of player that embraced competition though. And for that reason, Pulver is proud of what Bryan has achieved, but he certainly is not surprised.
According to Pulver, Bryan did not benefit from the individual attention that skill position players naturally receive. Kickers have to possess the work ethic to grind on their own and improve their craft. Pulver believes having role models like former CSU punter Hayden Hunt around definitely helped, but Bryan was always motivated to succeed from day one.
“I always thought that guy would have success no matter what,” Pulver said.
Despite proving the doubters wrong and becoming one of Colorado State’s most accomplished kickers ever, Bryan still is not satisfied. The veteran kicker has been a part of four consecutive bowl losses and Bryan is determined to leave Fort Collins with a ring.
“Either a bowl game or a Mountain West Championship or something. That’s number one,” Bryan said.
Bryan’s other goals? Make at least four more field goals and surpass Jeff Babcock (51) as the program’s all-time leader in career field goals and hit at least 80 percent of his 2018 field goal attempts to remain the program’s most accurate kicker.
“If I can get those three and win a ring, I’ll be satisfied,” Bryan said with a smile on his face.
PHOTO: Courtesy of CSU Athletics