BYU football’s kicking duo carries plenty of weight
Upon first glance, one might mistake BYU punter Ryan Rehkow for a tight end.
After all, most punters don’t stand at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds like Rehkow does. Such measurables are typically reserved for red zone pass catchers such as Cougar touchdown machine Isaac Rex.
Then again, most college punters aren’t already tabbed as a future NFL prospect after their freshman season at the collegiate level.
In all senses, Rehkow is just built different.
“I grew up playing soccer, and in high school I took up (punting),” Rehkow said at BYU Football Media Day on June 17. “I was naturally drawn to it.”
This natural interest in punting came from Rehkow’s older brother Austin, a three-time all-conference punter at the University of Idaho, whose professional career brought him most recently to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
“I watched his success and thought ‘ok, I have the same genes, I want to outperform him,'” Rehkow said of his brother. “Having a coach and mentor like that has been a huge blessing and instrumental to my success in every aspect.”
Rehkow’s success brought him to Provo, where he and redshirt sophomore kicker Jake Oldroyd form one of the strongest kicking duos in recent memory for the Cougars.
“We do everything together: all our workouts, all our practicing and all the work we put in outside team workouts,” Oldroyd said of his relationship with Rehkow. “There’s a lot of information we trade and we coach each other, and I think that chemistry is what helps us to be successful.”
Being part of the kicking game presents different and unique challenges for the specialists, who take the chance to coach and “bounce ideas off each other.”
“There have been little pieces of wisdom along the way that Jake has definitely passed along to me,” Rehkow said. “We point things out to help each other. We know what we’re both supposed to do and we’re just there to help each other execute it.”
Oldroyd kicked at an elite level this past season, drilling all 13 field goals he attempted and missing just two extra points out of 62 tries. The Associated Press third-team All-American became an immediate fan favorite back in 2016 when he nailed a game-winning, 33-yard field goal for his first career kick in BYU’s season opener at Arizona. Five years later, Oldroyd looks forward to facing the Wildcats yet again in the Sept. 4 opener in Las Vegas.
“I’m so excited to revisit some of those memories, and hopefully we win the game again,” Oldroyd said. “I’m trying to prepare for it like any other game.”
Rehkow, who earned the starting job as punter as a true freshman last season, didn’t have as many chances on the field because of the scoring success of BYU’s offense, but still made the most of his 28 punts by averaging over 45 yards each try.
“Rehkow kind of flew under the radar because we just didn’t punt much this last season, but he’s a true NFL prospect and true professional,” BYU special teams coordinator Ed Lamb said. “He and Jake work really well together and they are the most visible part of special teams.”
“Confidence is key in special teams because it’s more of a mental game than anything,” Rehkow said. “Having a great season in the past definitely helps, but we need to do even better in the future.”
In addition to his punting prowess, Rehkow provided one of last season’s most notable highlights when he called his own number and blasted ahead for a 49-yard gain on a fake punt run against Texas State.
“We want people to look at us and ask ‘why aren’t they playing linebacker or defensive back?’ We don’t want to be seen or presented as the kicker stereotype,” Oldroyd said. “That’s the brand we strive for as BYU specialists.”
Building such a brand begins in the weight room, where Oldroyd and Rehkow are quick to challenge themselves and compete with the rest of the team, following the same lifting and running routine as everyone else.
“We have our own drills and workouts that we do, but when we’re with the team we do all the same stuff,” Rehkow said. “We’re always looking around in the weight room saying we don’t want to be the ones lifting the least, we want to be right up there with the top guys. It’s good added motivation for us.”
“It motivates the other guys too because no one wants to look at the kicker and say ‘how are they putting up more weight than us?’” Oldroyd said.
Oldroyd and Rehkow have even been joined on occasion at workouts by Cougar legend Lee Johnson, the punter on the 1984 National Championship team who spent 18 seasons punting in the NFL.
“He’s in the weight room a lot,” Rehkow said. “Lee is a good mentor to have around. That reassurance is always awesome.”
With the Cougars looking to build off the success of 2020, Oldroyd and Rehkow are committed to putting in the necessary work to continue kicking at a high level.
“If we’re going to reach the heights that we want, it’s going to take a lot of consistency and extra work behind the scenes,” Rehkow said. “Obviously every position is different, but for us, it’s spending extra time getting in as many reps as we can.”
“We’ve got some experience under our belt and that definitely breeds confidence,” Oldroyd said. “It builds trust with our teammates. When they can see us around them leading the team, they have our back during a tough situation in a game and vice versa.”