In case you missed it, the best specialists in all of college football are right under your nose.
“Confidence is a huge thing with kicking. I think having that little bit of swag or edge to you can contribute to your confidence,” says Colorado State punter Ryan Stonehouse.
To say Stonehouse is good at what he does would be a critical understatement. A semi-finalist for the Ray Guy Award (given to NCAA football’s best punter), the senior from La Verne, Calif. trails San Diego State’s Matt Araiza in average punt distance by less than one-tenth of a yard.
You could say punting is in Ryan Stonehouse’s blood.
“My dad and my uncle used to run kicking camps in California,” says Stonehouse, who is affectionately referred to as ‘Stoney’ by his teammates. “It’s kind of in the family, it’s always been in the family.”
Since coming to Fort Collins four years ago, his "family" has now grown to include senior long snapper Ross Reiter and junior place kicker Cayden Camper.
They are the elite special teams unit in all of college football.
“We came in as teammates and I think we’re going to leave here as brothers,” says Reiter.
Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., Reiter’s career started in his backyard snapping hundreds of balls before dinner with his brother, Donald.
“It’s weird to say but I fell in love with long snapping,” says Reiter. “Every day we snapped like idiots. I was the little brother, I wanted to be better than my big brother.”
Now, Reiter is a semi-finalist for the Patrick Mannelly Award, given out to the nation’s best long snapper. But he’s not snapping for the limelight.
“When Ryan [Stonehouse] does good I’m jacked,” says Reiter, “When Cayden [Camper] does good I’m jacked, I want them to succeed. It helps me look good but at the end of the day it’s about them doing their jobs. I’m here to do my job to make their lives easier.”
Cayden Camper remembers modest beginnings growing up on a plot of land of about 40 acres near the town of Rye, Colo.
“It was kind of a culture shock coming to Fort Collins,” says Camper. “I’m sitting there sleeping in my apartment and I’m like, ‘I can hear cars.’”
Kicking was more of a hobby than a career, until he started working with Stonehouse and Reiter.
“[Stonehouse] and I have gotten really close over the last year because I’ve gotten more serious about the sport,” says Camper. “Now they’re saying I’m one of the best kickers in college football and I’m like, ‘Well, maybe I could go to the NFL.’ That would be cool!'”
Camper, a junior who played high school football and Pueblo County, is a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award – given to NCAA football’s best place kicker. He’s attempted more field goals than anyone else in college football and he’s battling with Jonah Dalmas of Boise State for most made field goals in the nation.
All three of these guys have their eyes set on the next level, all they need is a chance.
“I just need a shot,” says Stonehouse. “I’ll always compete with anybody.”
“I know I can do it, in my heart and my mind I truly believe,” says Reiter. “I have this big confidence in myself and a lot of trust in myself, all I can ask is the opportunity to go into a camp [and compete].”
Camper, however, prefers to live in the moment.
“Maybe after my senior year I’ll see if I still love the game of football,” says Camper. “Maybe I’m tired, maybe I just don’t feel like playing football anymore, who knows.”
As a junior, Camper has time to make his decision. Stonehouse and Reiter are heading out after this season, and they’d like to be a package deal.
“I’d love [playing with Reiter in the NFL] absolutely, I’d love to have Ross for another however many years.”
“We’ve always talked about it,” says Reiter. “It would be a dream.”
Wherever they land, they’ll remain forever connected through the bond they forged as CSU Rams.
“The specialists on this team are my best friends,” says Reiter.
“Off the field, on the field, we’re always having a good time,” says Camper.
“This group of guys that we have right now has just definitely come together and formed a really good bond,” says Stonehouse.
There's a chance both Stonehouse and Reiter could be selected in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. For now, no other school in the country can boast all three specialists being semi-finalists for their respective awards.