AMES — Allen Lazard put his thoughts on record.
The three fastest players on the Iowa State football team, in his opinion, are Jomal Wiltz, Kene Nwangwu and Trever Ryen — in that order.
“I actually saw the comment and I’d say he’s right on the dot with it,” Ryen said with a smile. “I think those two are faster than me, especially Kene.
“He’s just really frickin’ fast.”
The same could be said for Ryen, who started his college career as a track and field athlete at Northern Iowa before he became a wide receiver and dynamic punt returner for the Cyclones.
Ryen is second nationally in punt return average at 26 yards per return — only TCU’s Kavontae Turpin is higher (28.8). He was one of just eight FBS players last season to have a rushing, receiving and punt return touchdown.
“He’s really grown, especially since last year, just on kind of how to read the return, what the punt team is trying to do, how they’re attacking you and stuff and set up his blocks,” Lazard said.
As a walk-on, Ryen redshirted at Iowa State in 2014. He’s gone through several position switches before he found his home as a wide receiver and punt returner. He was a defensive back, wide receiver and running back before he was officially pegged in his current role. As an “M” receiver, Ryen has to perform the duties of a slot receiver, which has put a lot on his plate.
“The toughest thing for me is that I haven’t played receiver in more than a year and a half,” Ryen said. “I’m still learning how a receiver functions and stuff like that. Just the little things I have to work on.”
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Ryen’s 13 catches for 325 yards and a touchdown has shown he has quite an understanding of the position, but it’s as a punt returner that he’s really made his name.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder has four returns of 25 yards or longer this year and had a 55-yard return against San Jose State last week. Ryen’s return average against the Spartans was 38.7 yards per return.
“I think that is really such a pivotal role in the football game,” said offensive coordinator Tom Manning. “Just what he was able to do in the return game, which obviously can’t go unnoticed.”
There are standard punt returner responsibilities Ryen has to use — like peeking at a kick to see how close his defenders will be — but his best attribute can’t be taught. He trusts his speed.
“I always feel like once you get the first one out of the way, the rest are easy,” Ryen said. “That first punt, it’s like, ‘OK I don’t know how this team really functions or how it will function that day.’ I’ve got a lot of faith in the (other 10 guys on the unit).”
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