When it became apparent he was going to be BYU’s primary punter in 2020, recently returned missionary Ryan Rehkow took a look at the Cougars’ schedule and figured he would be punting eight or nine times in the first couple of games alone.
Obviously, the Spokane, Washington, native has had to adjust.
Through four games, Rehkow has been called on to punt just eight times for the No. 13/14 Cougars, and half of those came in Saturday’s 27-20 win over UTSA. BYU’s offense, first in the country in first downs per game (27.0) among teams that have played four games or more, has been so good that punts have rarely been needed.
Rehkow punted once against Navy (56 yards), once against Troy (38 yards) and twice against Louisiana Tech (96 total yards). The Cougars (4-0) hope they don’t have to use him much Friday when they take on 1-0 Houston at TDECU Stadium (7:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN).
Also, head coach Kalani Sitake hasn’t shied away from going for it on fourth down; the Cougars are 4 for 9 on fourth-down conversion attempts.
“Yeah, it has been a surprise to only punt a couple times so far,” Rehkow said before the UTSA game. “But I couldn’t be more happy for the team with the way it has worked out.”
Rehkow (pronounced: REE-co) is averaging 45.8 yards per punt, which would rank him 11th in the country if he had enough punts to qualify. Special teams coach Ed Lamb named him BYU’s special teams player of the game for his performance against UTSA, especially because Rehkow got a punt off in the final minutes and drew a roughing-the-punter penalty that allowed the Cougars to keep the ball.
“He was the player of the game for the versatility that he brought and the way that he executed the final punt,” Lamb said. “He had to take a snap under pressure and ended up drawing a penalty there by leaving his leg up.”
Rehkow also serves as BYU’s kickoff guy and is the holder on PATs. Field goal kicker Jake Oldroyd was out with a bad back vs. UTSA, so Rehkow would have kicked field goals last Saturday, Lamb said, but the coaching staff didn’t call for one. Oldroyd is expected to play Friday vs. Houston.
Rehkow is big and tall for a punter — he stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 240 pounds and was also a solid basketball player at Central Valley High in the Spokane area. It is also rare for a punter to immediately be on scholarship, but Rehkow has one because he was heavily recruited enough out of high school that BYU and other schools couldn’t get him to initially walk on like other specialists often do.
“The typical pattern at most universities, unless you are desperate for one, is they come and earn a spot and then the starting guy gets awarded with a scholarship,” Lamb said. “But in Ryan’s case, we liked him as a tight end, as a defensive end. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school as well, a really good basketball player in Washington. So we offered him as an athlete.”
Rehkow also had some outstanding bloodlines on his side. His oldest brother, Austin, was an All-American punter and all-conference kicker at the University of Idaho. Austin Rehkow is currently studying to become a chiropractor, but occasionally gets tryouts/contracts with professional teams such as the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Salt Lake Stallions and Houston Roughnecks.
Before he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to London, Ryan collaborated with Austin to make a video of Ryan punting a football from a dock at a lake in northern Idaho to Austin — who was some 40 yards away on a jet ski and caught the punt while in motion. The “trick shot” video went viral.
“I think we saw a quarterback throw it from the shore to someone on a jet ski,” Ryan Rehkow said. “We were at the lake one day and I said, “We could easily do this, let’s give it a try.’ So we did a couple takes and got a good one on camera. But yeah, it was just for good fun and having some fun with the brothers at the lake.”
Another of the punting/kicking Rehkow brothers, Landon, is currently on a mission but has committed to play for Idaho.
So why did Ryan Rehkow choose BYU?
He said the school was obviously familiar with how to handle prospects with mission plans and Lamb laid out a “perfect” timeline of how Ryan’s career could go in Provo.
“That was really the biggest factor for me,” he said. “And I quickly learned it is a great place.”
So far, so good.
Ryan Rehkow described his first punt at Navy as “a dream come true” and the culmination of a lot of hard work.
“I mean, there weren’t any fans, but still the atmosphere and the competitive nature of the game were still awesome,” he said.
Around campus, he is often asked why, with his size, he doesn’t play tight end or linebacker. He said it is because football wasn’t his first love. He grew up playing soccer and discovered he had a “big leg” and a “natural kicking motion” and also followed in Austin’s footsteps.
“Having my height is definitely a bonus just with leverage and everything,” he said, having ripped off a 74-yard punt in high school.
He credited his parents, Kim and Freddie, for supporting his dreams of playing major college football, financial and otherwise.
“I come from a great family with great parents,” Ryan Rehkow said. “I have brothers who are super supportive as well and ultimately we want to be happy and make others around us happy.”
Even if it means not punting four or five times in every game.