Mars grad Gralish gets his kicks with Lafayette football

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Often, Ryan Gralish pictures a football launching off his foot and sailing through the uprights.

It's been a common sight on the gridiron, too, for the Mars graduate and Lafayette College kicker.

Gralish wrapped up a successful sophomore season with the Leopards. He connected on nine of 11 field goal attempts and 36 of 38 PATs. That earned him All-Patriot League Second-Team honors.

“That was a great honor,” he said. “I didn't expect that at all.”

Gralish, who handles kickoff duties as well, helped Lafayette (5-7) capture the Patriot League championship. New Hampshire beat the Leopards, 45-7, in the first round of the NCAA FCS (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) playoffs.

“That was a pretty cool situation to win the Patriot League and get to the playoffs,” he said. “Even though we lost, it was still fun to travel to New Hampshire and take a crack at it.”

Gralish took over kicking duties for Lafayette during the second game of his freshman year. He's been a force for the Leopards ever since. He's connected on 15 of 19 field goal attempts and 64 of 69 PATs in two years.

“I really like playing the game of football and being a part of the team. It's really cool,” he said. “I just have a passion for sports, generally. Just being able to score points at a high level is a pretty cool thing. I like to have fun with it, and I think that's what it's all about.”

When high-pressure situations arise, kicking isn't all fun and games — to most.

“I like the pressure and going out and scoring points for the team. You have to have a really strong mental game as a kicker. Anything can go wrong,” Gralish said. “Your most-important kick is your next, so you always have to think about that. It's a big feeling of relief when you make it. Everyone is counting on you. It's fun when you make it. Everyone is happy and I am happy.”

Visualization helps Gralish prepare for kicks.

“Especially during the game, I am always taking mental reps and thinking about making it so I have no doubt. I can just go out there and do what I can do,” he said. “You have to try to stay confident. If not, the crowd will eat you up.”

Gralish's career-long field goal is 46 yards, which he booted in his freshman year. He hopes to get a chance to top that next fall.

“The furthest I have kicked one in practice was from 58 yards. In a game, I would probably say under 55 or 53 yards is where I am comfortable,” he said. “I definitely want to increase my range. My main focus is working on consistency. Once I get my technique down to where it's a science, I will be able to work on getting more distance on it.”

Gralish, who grew up playing soccer at Mars, has been kicking footballs only since high school.

“I was lucky enough that it came naturally for me,” he said. “I saw I was pretty good at it and tried to make a career in it. I try to practice as much as I can. That's the biggest part — trying to get the consistency down. One of the biggest issues for kickers is consistency. Practice makes perfect, that's what I try to do.”

A biology major, Gralish has to spend plenty of time hitting the books, too.

“It's pretty hard to balance. You don't have a lot of free time when you play football. It's like having a second job,” he said. “I just try to use time management. When I am done with practice, I try to go to the library and study. It's pretty difficult, especially being at a school like Lafayette.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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