LEBANON, Pa. — Chad Ryland changed settings from Eastern Michigan to Maryland for his final season of college football. He saw some new competition, but his consistency remained the same.
"When I entered the portal I just sort of wanted a stage that was bigger than I was getting at Eastern Michigan in the MAC," said Ryland. "Coach (Mike) Locksley was just really open and honest with me saying, 'Hey, if it's in your range, we're going to attempt it.'"
When the Cedar Crest grad transferred to the Terrapins, he continued to give his team a leg up on the competition, now on the big stage of the Big Ten.
"The two 50-yarders at the Big House in front of 110,000 was awesome. The big thing was to win a bowl game," recalled Ryland. "That's something I wasn't able to do in my four years at Eastern Michigan. We went to three and lost all three. I was lucky to go out with a bowl win and get a ring and then hopefully take the skills with me that I learned at Eastern and Maryland and transition them to the next level."
It can be tough for specialists to catch the eye of those in the NFL, with few positions available, but the Lebanon County native has a few big opportunities ahead of him. The Hula Bowl, the Reese's Senior Bowl, which only invites two kickers, and the NFL Combine.
"It wasn't too long that I was at Cedar Crest just kicking footballs cause I thought it's going to be a fun experience on Friday nights at Earl Boltz Stadium, to now getting the invite to the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine," said Ryland with a smile. "It almost gets a little emotional sometimes for me and then my family, too, because it's just a testament to the hard work paying off."
When it comes to the NFL Draft, analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is a name that many know and trust when it comes to rating and ranking prospects. The top kicker on his 'big board,' right now, is Ryland.
"I had a buddy send it to me, 'Yeah, you're the number two specialist and number one kicker on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board that just came out.' I was like, 'What are you talking about?' He was like, 'No, I read it today.' I said, 'Can you show me?' He pulls it up and shows me and there's my name and I'm like, 'Well, that's cool.'"
Of course, teams are drafting the man, as much as the player, and if you've spoken with Ryland, you certainly like his chances when it comes to the team interviews.
"That's something I preach when I go back to the middle school or high school at Cedar Crest," added Ryland. "Everything you do matters. Not just on the field, academics, how you treat people, just how you go about your life altogether."