Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 35
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
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BOOT CAMP: Princeton University punter Ryan Coyle boots the ball in action last season. Coyle, a Princeton native and former star at the Lawrenceville School, earned All-Ivy League honors last season after averaging 43.1 yards a kick. This week, Coyle is starting preseason camp with the Tigers as he prepares for his final college campaign.

Rising from Walk-On to All-Ivy Punter at PU, Hometown Product Coyle Getting Last Kicks

Bill Alden

Ryan Coyle was right under the noses of the Princeton University football coaches but he wasn’t on their radar screen when it came time for serious recruiting.

The Princeton resident was a star kicker and punter for nearby Lawrenceville School but after a subpar performance at the PU program’s summer camp in 2003, the Tiger coaches cooled on him.

Although Coyle was recruited by Davidson College and Amherst College, he decided to apply to Princeton because he wanted to take a shot at getting an Ivy League education even if his football prospects looked dim.

Coyle was ultimately accepted by Princeton and he decided to give the Tiger coaching staff another shot at obtaining his kicking services.

“I got into Princeton on my own,” recalled the 6’3, 215-pound Coyle. “After I got accepted, I talked to the coaches and sent them my tapes and they told me to walk on. At the beginning I wanted to kick but I knew I would have no chance to do that with All-Ivy kicker (Derek Javarone) around so they told me to punt.”

That turned out to be the right decision for everyone concerned as Coyle blossomed into an All-Ivy performer himself last fall in his junior season, averaging 43.1 yards a kick.

As Coyle looked ahead to the start of Princeton’s preseason camp this week, he credited All-Ivy predecessor Colin McDonough with easing his transition to the college game.

“Colin really helped me; I never had anyone else at practice to work with,” said Coyle.

“Everybody has their own style and he’s not one to tell people to change their style but he helped with things like getting ready on the sidelines and getting warmed up.”

An injury to McDonough gave Coyle his first taste of college action in 2006 in Princeton’s overtime win at Colgate.

“Colin got hurt after the Thursday practice and I got a call at 7:30 on Friday morning from Coach [Roger] Hughes,” said Coyle.

“He told me I was making the trip to Colgate. On Thursday, I was on the bench and then I was starting that Saturday. On my first kick, we were on the 45 or 50 and I tried to pooch it and I kicked it 20 yards out of bounds. I did the same thing on the next kick. On the third kick, I was knocking it out of the back of the end zone and I relaxed a little more. I hadn’t had time to get my head around getting the chance to play.”

Coming into last season, Coyle was ready for his chance to start with four-time All-Ivy performer McDonough having graduated.

“I was definitely more prepared; the first game with Lehigh is always tough,” said Coyle.

“One of their coaches used to coach at Princeton. He knows our special teams schemes and he always has something special up his sleeve. We had a punt blocked. I had a good game at Lafayette; I started punting better after that. I realized that I could punt well in practice and that I could do the same thing in games. I gained more of a comfort level; I started not feeling a difference between the games and practice.”

Coyle ended up as the leading punter in the Ivy League and a bright spot in a frustrating fall that saw Princeton go 4-6 overall and 3-4 in Ivy play after having gone 9-1 in 2006 and sharing the league title with Yale.

For Coyle, it meant a lot to follow in McDonough’s footsteps in earning All-Ivy accolades.

“That was really special; I felt very honored,” said Coyle. “It was bittersweet because the team didn’t have a good season. Looking back 2006 was so great getting the ring. It was not nearly the same feeling last year.”

In looking back on the beginning of his football career at Lawrenceville, it didn’t take long for Coyle to feel that he had a future in kicking.

“I played guard on the JV team and I wasn’t too good at that,” said Coyle with a laugh.

“I always liked kicking and punting so I gave that a try. I liked place kicking better in high school because I liked scoring points. They just had me do the punting because I was the kicker. I had a pretty good year my junior season and I started to get letters from schools.”

This summer, Coyle has been working hard to improve on his stellar junior season with Princeton.

“I go to the weight room four days a week at 6:30 in the mornings; we have about 25-30 guys,” said Coyle.

“I do a similar program to the other guys; I work on explosive leg strength exercises. I need leg speed and quickness; I don’t do a lot of squats.; I run the stadium steps and I punt four days a week; I kick 100 balls a day; I work on punting to spots.”

In Coyle’s view, he and his classmates are in a good spot as they look to rebound from last season.

“I think we need to hold on to the ball on offense,” maintained Coyle. “The defense has been a strength of the team the last few years; we just need to be really consistent. It was different in the spring without last year’s senior class. I think there is more team cohesion. Our class is more laid back and the guys are willing to share the responsibility.”

Coyle is prepared to carry an even greater share of the load this fall.

“My first goal is directing the ball better and kicking it on the numbers,” explained Coyle, who plans to go to medical school after Princeton but may take a shot at pro football if the opportunity presents itself.

“Every kicker would love to kick the ball 55 yards. I do want to improve my average. I had a bad game against Penn. I could have been around 44 or 45. I’m looking to be more consistent.”

Coyle knows his mentor McDonough will be checking up on his progress. “Colin has kept up with me; he called me a lot last year,” added Coyle.

“He went up to the Harvard game with a bunch of alums and he called me after I had a big game. He also called me after the Penn game; he told me not to worry. I’m glad that I kept the All-Ivy streak going.”

And if Coyle can keep that streak going this fall, it would help Princeton get on the radar screen when it comes to the Ivy title hunt.

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