Sept. 14, 2009

By Amy Farnum

It’s not every day a woman plays and starts for a college football team, so naturally, the media spotlight shines on Lebanon Valley College kicker Brittany Ryan.  The junior from Easton, Pa., does not want to bring undue attention to herself because she’s a female on a men’s team, although as head coach Jim Monos points out, she has earned her rightful place on the Dutchmen’s roster.

“She has really worked hard to become a good kicker,” said Monos.  “She wasn’t given a chance at first, and it a matter of eventually getting her opportunity.  When she got it, she took advantage of it.”

Ryan’s interest in placekicking peaked when she was a junior in high school and was playing flag football in gym class. 

“The gym teacher said, ‘you play soccer, we need a kicker for the football team,’” said Ryan.  I did a practice kick over the goal posts, and he sarcastically said, ‘you might be decent, you should try out.’”

The teacher’s comment planted the seed in Ryan’s head.

“I thought who knows, maybe I could do it,” said Ryan.  “I talked to my family about it, and eventually talked to the head football coach about it.  I tried out just like everybody else, and somehow I kept on going with it.”

Ryan would go out to the Easton High School football practice field at night so no one would see her before she was ready to try out for the team.

“I didn’t really know if I was going to do it at the time, so I didn’t want anyone to judge me before I did it,” said Ryan.  “I went to a football camp that summer, and went to camp again before I came to college.”

After making the team her senior season, Ryan connected on 46 extra points and two field goals to earn all-state honorable mention, but then figured her football career was over.

“I didn’t expect to play in college at all,” said Ryan.  “I put it out of my head after my last game in high school.  It was heart-wrenching for me because I didn’t think I would ever play football again.  When Coach (Vince) Pantalone came to recruit me I thought it was a big joke.  How often do you see a girl playing college football?”

Pantalone, an assistant coach for the Dutchmen, was not joking.  Ryan’s high school coach had alerted LVC’s staff about her kicking talents.

Ryan took a recruiting trip to the school, and everything fell into place.  She became roommates with Pantalone’s daughter Rachel, a member of the LVC field hockey team, and she earned an academic scholarship to the school.  Ryan loved the campus, and was thrilled to get a chance to continue playing football.

Although she made the squad her freshman year, it took a little prodding of Monos before Ryan actually got to kick in a game.  After the seventh game of her freshman season, she went to see the head coach and asked why she wasn’t getting a chance.

“I realized we were pretty inconsistent with our other kickers at that time,” said Monos.  “The next game when we missed that first extra point, I said, ‘you’re in.’ She’s been our kicker since then.”

Ryan started the Dutchmen’s final three games as the PAT kicker in 2007, and then played in each of LVC’s 10 games last season, hitting 27 PAT and was perfect on three field goal attempts.  When she nailed a 30-yard field goal against Widener, she became just the third female to make a field goal in an NCAA game.

Not only has she earned a place on the team for her talents, but she has also earned the respect of players and coaches by doing everything the other players do, like conditioning drills and weight lifting.  Monos says Ryan’s personable manner allows her to fit in the guys, but she can also hold her own and stick up for herself.  Ryan does not date her teammates, and thinks of them as brothers.

“I couldn’t be happier with the relationship I have with the guys on the team,” said Ryan.  “We get along really well.  I really appreciate the camaraderie I have with them.  It’s something special that I will hold on to for the rest of my life.”

In two games this season, Ryan has connected on 8-of-10 PAT, but realizes she must continue compete for her job in every practice and every game.

“From my perspective, the challenge for me is to stay focused every time I go out on the field, and that it could be my very last kick,” said Ryan.  “I need to enjoy being on the team and being able to play.”

The Dutchmen are 2-0 this season, and travel to Moravian College for their next contest on Sept. 19.