Former USC kicker David Buehler made national headlines three years ago when it was revealed that he ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 10 times at the NFL Combine.
Cameron Bryan averaged 63.4 yards on his kickoffs in 2009 and also made six tackles.
Kickers aren’t supposed to be athletic. They’re supposed to be little guys. Some would even say wimpy goes with the territory.
But Arkansas’ backup kicker in 2012, Cameron Bryan, might be able to one-up Buehler when it comes to speed.
Bryan, a senior from Oklahoma City, has the fastest pro-shuttle time of all the current Razorbacks (3.95 seconds), and his 40-yard dash time of 4.40 ranks in the top seven on the team.
The Hogs are in good shape on the kicking front with junior Zach Hocker, but Bryan (5-10, 176) is so fast that he was covering kickoffs – not making them – in the eighth-ranked Razorbacks’ season opener last week against Jacksonville State. He’s expected to be on the kickoff coverage team again Saturday when the Hogs (1-0) take on Louisiana-Monroe at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
“You put him on those scout teams to look at kickoff coverage, punt coverage and those things, and we can’t hold him up,” Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said Monday, explaining the reason Bryan is on kickoff coverage. “We can’t get to the guy. He has a way of winding through, kind of like water, finding the easiest way down there.”
The idea wasn’t Smith’s, though. It actually belonged to Bryan, who felt comfortable enough with Smith – his former special teams coach – to approach him with the idea in the spring.
Bryan handled kickoff duties for eight games in 2009 before losing the job to Alex Tejada, and he missed the 2011 season with a broken foot.
“I knew that because rules have changed with kickoff – I was mainly a kickoff specialist – so with the rules being changed, with the ball being closer, they’re probably not going to change anything that’s not broken now with Zach doing kickoff,” Bryan said.
“I figured I wouldn’t waste any time that I have left. I’m not guaranteed another play as it is, and I’m definitely not guaranteeing anything after this. I definitely want to maximize at least every second I have left with this team. Once this is over, my athleticism, I don’t know when it’s going to be used again.
“I told him (Smith) that I wanted to fill any gap, any hole that we had anywhere, and I wanted to play special teams if it’s at all possible, just to contribute to the team because I didn’t want to sit out again.”
Smith was “pretty receptive of it,” Bryan said.
“He’s worked with me, and I’m still learning a lot of stuff.”
Bryan didn’t make any tackles in the opener, but Smith liked what he saw.
“I thought for his first game under the lights, his eyes didn’t get big,” Smith said. “He went down and tried to do everything he could.”
Being athletic is nothing new to Bryan. He played soccer, swam and ran track in high school at Oklahoma City Bishop McGuinniss. He wanted to do more than kick for the football team, but said his coach was afraid he’d get injured because he was the only kicker the team had.
And a very good one, at that.
“Soccer is my best sport, but my passion grew for kicking and I came up as a kicker. And I began to just love it,” he said. “I fell in love with it. It got me here.”
He said he had the gift of naturally being fast, but he’s also worked during the off-season and has seen a steady progression in his athleticism.
Although his friends outside of football get a kick out of him being on the field without actually kicking, Bryan has earned his teammates’ respect.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” senior quarterback Tyler Wilson said. “When you look at him, you might not think that. But he’s on our top five board in agility and quickness every year. It’s kind of a running joke. … He’s always got a great attitude and he works hard.”
And that hard work has landed him in the middle of the action.
“He’s more than just a kicker,” senior linebacker Tenarius Wright said.
Yes, he certainly is.