HAMMOND — The journey involved in becoming the team’s starting place-kicker may have rivaled the one that brought Ryan Adams from Dayton, Ohio, to Southeastern Louisiana.
Neither trip worked out quite as envisioned, but is in the midst of a happy ending.
Adams, who was signed by former Southeastern coach Mike Lucas, found himself entrusted with handling the team’s kickoff duties for three seasons while Seth Sebastian went on to rewrite most of the school’s place-kicking records.
Four years after his arrival, Adams has performed more like an experienced veteran this season than someone making his college debut, leading Southeastern in scoring and ranking second in the Southland Conference with 52 points.
Moreover, Adams has also etched his name into the school’s record books with a 55-yard field goal — part of a three-field-goal outing — in last week’s 30-22 league victory over Northwestern State.
“It feels really good,” said Adams, who has made 9 of 10 field goals and 25 of 26 extra points. “After waiting for so long I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to break a school record. It’s definitely a huge honor. You don’t know when that time’s going to be when your number will be called. I’ve got to prepare each week when my number’s called I have to perform.”
For the second time this season, Adams distinguished himself as the SLC’s Special Teams Player of the Week with successful field goals of 41 and 55 yards in the first half. He added a 30-yarder for a 16-0 lead midway through the third quarter to go along with three successful extra points.
“That’s huge to get a guy to kick consistently. It’s a weapon,” Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said. “The name of the game is to score points. Ideally you always want seven, and if things don’t work out you can get three.”
The trajectory of Adams’ life took a sharp turn south when Lucas reached out to the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder after receiving a post-signing day email and video from one of Adams’ assistant coaches.
The subject line of the email read: Kicker with big leg.
It was appropriate after Adams was twice named All-Greater Catholic League kicker for Carroll High with a pair of 52-yard field goals to his credit.
“It’s national signing day, and I’m sitting with nothing,” Adams said. “Coach Lucas happened to look at my email, watched my film and called to set up an official visit the following weekend. He offered and I committed on the spot. I never expected to be in Louisiana. It’s crazy.”
Competition for the vacant place-kicking job got underway in the spring, with Adams, who had a career-high 21 touchbacks last year, battling redshirt freshmen Alex Herbert and Brody Hay. That continued through preseason camp, with Adams emerging with the starting job and Herbert handling kickoff duties.
Adams was successful on his first four field goals, a stretch that began with a 46-yarder in the season opener against Jacksonville and continued with two more and five extra points in a 41-14 win over Southern Utah, earning his first SLC Special Teams Player of the Week honor.
Adams handled his first bout of adversity against Tulane — his only miss of the season from 43 yards away — and started a new streak of five straight made field goals with a 50-yard effort in the same game.
Adams provided nine of SLU’s first 16 points in last week’s win with three first-half field goals, including the school-record 55-yarder that broke Jeff Turner’s previous mark of 52 yards set in 2009.
“When we cross the 50-yard line, I kind of know there might be an opportunity to kick,” said Adams, who has made two of the school’s three field goals from 50 yards and out. “On third down I stand by coach Roberts and he’ll ask me what I think. On the 55-yarder he looked at me and I said, ‘I’ve got this.’ ”