Michigan State University (MSU) redshirt freshman kicker Ryan Eckley made his first start of his collegiate career at the beginning of September.
Eckley only played once last year, making one 41-yard kick in his college debut in week two after enrolling at MSU in January of 2022. Eckley played behind sixth-year senior Bryce Baringer, who was drafted by the Patriots this year.
“Not getting playing time my true freshman year was honestly better than I thought. It gave me time to mature and work on perfecting my craft before I came out in a game,” Eckley said. “I feel miles more prepared now than I did last year.”
The Lithia native said playing behind Baringer taught him a lot on and off the field.
“He taught me a lot about character, being able to stay levelheaded and block out all the noise and do my job,” Eckley said.
Aside from Baringer, Eckley said his mother has had the biggest influence on his football career.
“She’s been there through the entire journey: camps, practices, games and anything in between. A lot of what I do in football is dedicated to both my parents and all the sacrifices that have been made to get me where I am today,” Eckley said.
To earn the starting spot on the Spartan’s team, Eckley spent his summer in Tennessee at Kohl’s Professional Football Kicking Camps, one of the country’s top training resources for kickers.
“People don’t realize the impact football has both on and off the field,” Eckley said. “It’s a way to escape anything going on or be there as a stress reliever.”
Eckley began playing football when he was 6 years old and played on Newsome High School’s varsity for four years. He averaged 39.8 yards per punt in high school before committing to MSU in December of his senior year.
“My experience there was great under coach Yockey. Team environment and culture has been and was amazing,” Eckley said about his time at Newsome.
Eckley made his first start against Central Michigan University in the Spartan’s first game of the year, making three attempts for a total of 129 yards.
“This was an experience like no other and just one step in my journey,” Eckley said.