‘You guys got a steal’
LARAMIE -- There were at least a couple of people who weren't surprised to see John Hoyland trot on the field in Reno last week and go a perfect 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, including a 42-yarder to send the game to overtime.
One, Hoyland himself.
The other, Ben Fentress, a personal kicking coach who spend time with Hoyland in Cheyenne this offseason.
"I wasn't shocked at all," Fentress said. "I told (Wyoming special teams coach, Shannon Moore) after I worked with him that this kid is the real deal.
"You guys got a steal."
Fentress, who is the Director of Operations at One on One Kicking, has plenty of experience when it comes to working with placekickers. You might have heard of one of his pupils -- Cooper Rothe.
Fentress served as a quality control coach on Craig Bohl's staff during the 2018 season.
Rothe, then a junior, converted 16-of-17 kicks and was named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. They give that to the nation's best kicker.
It's early, but does Fentress see any similarities between Rothe and the 5-foot, 10-inch, 183-pound freshman walk-on?
"In the way they carry themselves, yes," he said. "They're both silent but deadly. Coop wasn't a big talker. Same with John."
In a year or two, Fentress added, we could possibly see some similarities in the two Colorado products with big right legs.
Monday afternoon, Hoyland was introduced in person to the local media for the first time. Nervously, the rookie said he was "kind of a no one" before Saturday night.
Social media buzzed about No. 46 from his first attempt, a 27-yarder that appeared effortless.
If you were wondering who Hoyland was during the telecast, you weren't alone.
A quick check of his bio on the team's official website doesn't offer much. Heck, there's not even a mug shot of the guy.
“It’s been a lot of texts and just people blowing up my phone right now,” Hoyland said Monday over a Zoom meeting. “... Now that I’m here, it’s pretty crazy. I’m not used to this."
Hoyland hammered a 36-yard attempt in the second quarter, added that long equalizer to force the extra period with just 23 ticks remaining on the game clock.
Before he lined up for that kick, Nevada head coach Jay Norvell attempted to "ice" him twice, calling a pair of timeouts.
It didn't work.
"What John did during the course of that game was pretty remarkable," Bohl said. "For a freshman to come in and perform the way he did -- he had some great normal kicks, but those two kicks and the end of the game -- Those were big pressurized kicks and he did a great job with both of them."
Despite the eventual 37-34 loss to the Wolf Pack, Hoyland was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week.
"Obviously, my goal coming in here was just to try and get as much confidence from the coaching staff that I could and just make the most of any opportunity I could," Hoyland said. "It’s good to know that up to now I’ve done all I could to impress and have a spot on this team.”
It might be a bit of a "Wally Pipp" situation, too.
Luke Glassock, a redshirt freshman from Buffalo was slated to be the Pokes' starting kicker out of fall camp. A pulled groin threw a wrench in those plans.
For those who don't know, Pipp was a first baseman for the Yankees in 1925. He got injured and a guy named Lou Gehrig replaced him. "The Iron Horse" started 2,130 straight games from that point on. Pipp was traded to the Reds.
Hoyland didn't get much of a chance to battle for the starting job. He, along with nearly the entire freshman class, was forced to quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols.
"He had done some good things in practice," Bohl said. "The challenge was, because of COVID restrictions, he was not able to be with us a significant amount of time. So, we had planned to start Luke."
Fentress said he would not be surprised to see Hoyland continue the fast start to his career.
"The kid just has the right attitude to be a starting kicker at the FBS level," he said. "He doesn't get super excited if he makes one or misses one. He's mentally level.
"You can't ride the emotional rollercoaster. He's not buying that ticket for the rollercoaster. He's a solid, level-headed kicker."
Hoyland said he decided to take the preferred walk-on spot in Laramie because of the educational value and the projection of the football program. He had full-ride opportunities at a few Division-II schools.
Hoyland's father, Nigel, runs elite soccer programs in northern Colorado. It's that work ethic, Fentress said, that came out during drills this past summer. Hoyland was meticulous in his training and took every kick seriously, he added. Fundamentals were front and center.
Nearly everyone was surprised Saturday night to see Hoyland in the starter's role.
"I was ready," Hoyland said. "I had a sneaky suspicion (Glassock wouldn't be able to go). I knew I would be ready to play."
Hoyland will be remembered for his debut, but that's not it. His footwear grabbed plenty of attention, too.
The freshman sported a red kicking shoe. That doesn't exactly mesh with Brown and Gold on the color wheel.
"I asked the equipment manager to get me a pair of cleats, and he gave me a red shoe," Hoyland said. "I asked if he had a different color, and they did not."
"I did not chose the fashion statement," Bohl joked.
The head coach doesn't care what Hoyland wears as long as that ball keeps sailing between the yellow pipes.