AMES — As Paul Rhoads spoke, Trever Ryen stood motionless.
It’s an uncommon stance for the former track athlete-turned-Iowa State running back, but the news he received carried enough weight to force his mind — and facial expression — into slow-motion mode.
A scholarship? Really? Me?
‘Wow,” said Ryen, a now former walk-on who’s scored a pair of touchdowns for the Cyclones this season.
Rhoads started off a Sunday team meeting by forming that one word every walk-on dreams of hearing. Ryen, Rhoads said, turned the bleached color of notebook paper.
“Just had an overwhelmed look on his face,” Rhoads added, “which was fun to see.”
Ryen sat through that 15-minute meeting then spent about an hour in the running backs room. Once he emerged, the news had leaked out. So Ryen raced downstairs, grabbed his phone and thumbed out a familiar number: Mom’s.
“I was like, ‘Hey mom, I’ve got something crazy to tell you,” said Ryen, who hopes to add to his touchdown total a week from Saturday when ISU (1-2) opens Big 12 play against Kansas (0-2) at Jack Trice Stadium. “She’s like, ‘What’s that?’ I’m like, ‘I’m on scholarship.’”
At first, she didn’t seem to believe him.
“I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m serious,’” Ryen said.
Then the reality of a son’s dream achieved set in.
“She, like, started crying and all that,’” Ryen said.
It’s not as if Ryen didn’t earn the financial support. He first caught Rhoads’s eye fully by shining the last third of spring ball and caching six passes for 146 yards and a score in the spring game.
But Rhoads saw him sitting “idly” in fall camp — down the depth chart at receiver. Thus, Ryen became a running back.
“Smartly, we made the move,” Rhoads said.
And swiftly, Ryen sprinted toward the end zone.
He took a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in the 31-7 season-opening win over Northern Iowa, where he once ran track. He turned a short pass into a 53-yard gain in the 31-17 loss to Iowa. He jetted 11 yards for a touchdown in last week’s numbing 30-23 double-overtime loss at Toledo.
In essence. He’s arrived — and now, his school will be paid for.
“He’s a catcher and he’s a runner, first of all, so you’ve got to defend him in that regard,” Rhoads said. “He’s given us toughness (and) obviously he gives us speed at the position. As a former receiver, he catches the ball well out of the backfield and that allows you to do number of things as far as routes are concerned. But he’s also on a number of special teams, as well. Not just kick returns and punt returns, but he’s also out there covering kickoffs and a member of our punt coverage too.”
A Trever of all trades. No longer overwhelmed and always on the move.
“As always, the team is just thrilled and excited for a former walk-on to earn a scholarship,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads ended Sunday’s team meeting by displaying a shovel. No, he wasn’t going to dig anywhere. He help the implement symbolically in a gesture designed to "bury" any residual angst remaining after Saturday’s 30-23 double-overtime loss at Toledo. The Cyclones were whistled for 14 penalties and fell to 1-2 despite out-gaining the Rockets 481 yards to 309.
"When I use the word ‘bury,’ I literally wanted to bury the outcome of that football game, but we needed to learn from it come Tuesday,” Rhoads said. “I wasn’t doing any teaching on Sunday. I was trying to motivate and keep our confidence level high. We still believe we’ve got a much improved football team."