LARAMIE, Wyo. — Ryan Cummings had an idea of how his freshman year would play out.
Like most Wyoming freshmen, Cummings — a 6-foot-5, 294-pound offensive tackle — expected to redshirt. It wasn’t an easy fact to concede, but he accepted the positives.
In his free season, he would adjust to the speed of the college game. He would study Wyoming’s playbook like it was scripture, impress the coaching staff with his physicality and technique in practice and learn from the veterans surrounding him on both sides of the line.
And for the next four years, hopefully, he would start — and win.
But a shockwave of injuries along Wyoming’s offensive line began to progressively shift his outlook. First, sophomore left tackle Nathan Leddige suffered a concussion — his second of the young season. Then, senior right tackle Connor Rains went down with appendicitis.
To fill the void, versatile junior Austin Traphagan would slide from left to right tackle. That left the left tackle spot, quarterback Colby Kirkegaard’s blind side, open.
And suddenly, all of Cummings’ plans — the sitting, the waiting, the redshirting — were frantically discarded.
Cummings was told he’d make his first collegiate start in Wyoming’s conference road game at Hawaii.
“My mentality was, ‘OK, I’m getting a redshirt. I’m going to get these next four years ahead of me to be able to play,'” Cummings said Monday. “But things happen and you get put in a role where you need to go perform. That’s what happens. You need to do what’s best for the team.”
As Cummings jogged onto the field inside Aloha Stadium, a week’s worth of nervousness and anticipation gave way to an eerie calm. He was young, but he felt as ready as he ever would be.
When the ball was snapped, the only thing left to do was play.
“I was mentally prepared,” Cummings said. “I knew my opponent across from me, knew what he was going to do. That took a lot of the nerves away for me.”
Wyoming fans who battled fatigue to watch the late kickoff know the rest of the story. The Cowboys scored a season-high 21 points in the first half, but were limited to seven points after halftime. Hawaii exploded for 21 consecutive points to steal a 38-28 victory.
Despite the defeat, there were bright spots. Cummings was certainly one of them.
“The thing that we appreciated about Ryan, to come out and start in a Mountain West game over in Hawaii against some physical guys, he competed really hard,” head coach Craig Bohl said. “While technically he can improve on some things, he was not out of his element. It was not like he was intimidated.
“While technically and assignment-wise he can play better, we really appreciated his competitive nature. We’ll build on that.”
Despite the fact that Honolulu is located nearly 3,000 miles from Colorado, Cummings’ father, Lonnie Cummings, flew to Hawaii to watch his son start for the first time as a Cowboy.
“He was pretty emotional,” Cummings said. “He told me he was just so happy to see me out there, to see me healthy.”
Chances are, Cummings will start again this Saturday against San Jose State.
And after that, hopefully many more to come.
“I think there’s a lot out there for him,” Bohl said. “We think there’s a bright future for Ryan Cummings.”
— Pokes Authority (@PokesAuthority) October 15, 2014