EMU loses star kicker, program's leading scorer to transfer portal

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Eastern Michigan football has a knack for playing close games, and pulling out close wins.

On that front, the Eagles suffered a major loss Friday when junior kicker Chad Ryland entered the transfer portal. Ryland is Eastern Michigan's all-time points leader, with 309, and is the program's leader in PATs (141). He made 56 field goals, second in program history.

Ryland finished the 2021 season having made 17 field goals in a row, the nation's longest active streak, and was named second-team All-Mid-American Conference.

Eastern Michigan kicker Chad Ryland.

In a Twitter post, Ryland said "sudden changes" prompted the decision to transfer, which he called difficult.

"I never thought I could get as close to as many people as I did over the four years," wrote Ryland, "which is the main reason why this was such a tough decision."

Ryland didn't disclose where he might transfer, though his four-year collegiate performance — which includes 5-for-5 on field goals in bowl games — could land him at a Power Five school.

Ryland, from Lebanon, Pennsylvania who also played soccer in high school, played four seasons at Eastern Michigan, but has additional eligibility because of the extra year granted by the NCAA in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He made an immediate impact as a freshman when he hit a walk-off field goal against Purdue, giving the Eagles just their second win ever over a Power Five program. The next year, he did it again, walking it off against Illinois for another Power Five victory.

At the start of his third season, he was finally awarded a scholarship. That year, he made four field goals against Western Michigan and three against Central Michigan. This year, he made a program-record five field goals against Western Michigan, helping the Eagles to a 7-6 season that ended with a loss to Liberty in a bowl game in Mobile, Alabama.

Ryland is the 15th Eastern Michigan football player to enter the transfer portal since the start of December, and the 12th since the end of the season. That list includes two quarterbacks, the 2020 starter, Preston Hutchinson (Tennessee-Chattanooga), and the 2021 starter, Ben Bryant, who is returning to Cincinnati.

Central Michigan has lost six players to the portal since the end of the season, and Western Michigan three.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984