Ryan Harrison Is a Really Good Kicker

He was featured in todays FWST:

Against Houston on Wednesday, Ryan Harrison might line up a winning field goal or try to pin the Cougars deep with a punt for crucial field position.Beyond that, Harrison’s world becomes complicated compared with what’s asked of most college graduates.

The Air Force senior will kick in his last college game after two standout years when the Falcons (8-4) face Houston (7-5) in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Harrison, from Keller High School, set an Air Force record this season with 22 field goals in 25 attempts. In two years, Harrison made 13 field goals of 40 or more yards, with three of 50 or more last season.

He’ll be one of about 350 Air Force graduates in 2009 bound for pilot training school, with his first preference being the one in Pensacola, Fla.

Where Harrison ranks in his pilot class will determine if he receives an aircraft and what class it is. The best of the best typically get fighter planes.

“It’s broken up into three parts,” said Harrison, a semifinalist earlier this season for the Lou Groza Award for the nation’s top kicker. “The first one is ground school, and with the other two parts, it’s six months to a year, then you go to a base.”

Harrison will be the second former Keller player to graduate from a service academy, along with Army’s Brandon White.

“In 17 years of coaching, Ryan will be the second,” Keller coach Kevin Atkinson said. “A lot of kids dream of getting a pilot spot or getting a chance to play in the NFL, but he could have both opportunities.”

Atkinson said he and Harrison have discussed kicking professionally before or after he fulfills a five-year commitment to the Air Force.

If he’s a pilot first, Harrison must work to not fall too far from the game. Former Dallas Cowboys and Air Force defensive lineman Chad Hennings did just fine after serving as an A-10 pilot.

“He would have a chance to kick at the next level if he got that opportunity. I think he’s that good,” Air Force tight ends/specialists coach Ben Miller said.

“You don’t really put that in kids’ heads at the Academy, but he’s talented enough to have a shot. Right now, I just know he’s going to be a great pilot.”

Harrison’s longest field goal this season is 48 yards. His longest attempt — from 54 yards — was blocked by BYU “when we let a guy go free,” Miller said. A 57-yarder against TCU last year is Harrison’s career long.

He made up for lost time after a one-season suspension in 2006, when he was penciled in as the Falcons’ starter.

Harrison’s offense — divulged privately and not by him — pales in comparison to the routine misdeeds of today’s college athletes.

Still, it violated Air Force’s no-exceptions honor code. He kept his spot at the Academy, but worse offenses at traditional programs rarely draw 12-game bans.

“I got in trouble,” Harrison said. “I violated a standard of the Academy and couldn’t represent the team. It’s a big deal there. I got to practice but couldn’t be in a game. It taught me something I wouldn’t have learned on a football field. I found out a lot about myself, and looking forward to playing [in 2007] kept me going.”

Despite the lost season, Harrison’s pilot goals never wavered. He took his punishment — including six months of not leaving campus — excelled in class and made the most of a short football career.

“It has not [adversely] affected him,” Miller said. “He sat out his year, moved on and became a stronger person and player. He would have gotten a slap on the wrist at a regular university, but in terms of honor and integrity, you can’t mess with those things here.”

Harrison, who handles punts and kickoffs, made 16 consecutive field goals over two seasons before a miss against Houston on Sept. 13 in a game moved to Dallas because of Hurricane Ike. He’s 15-for-17 since then and 78-for-80 on career extra points.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I got through it. I would hope this has made me more mature. Otherwise, I’m not really apt to learning anything.”

Ryan graduated with my daughter, and his little brother graduated with my son.  Both are terrific kids and both great kickers and soccer players.  Their mother Shellie was always active with the PTA and was there grinning at every High School game.  I’m sure she’ll be there for Ryan’s last college football game with that big ole’ smile on her face.

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