Utah Kicker Scoring Big Time Interest

It has been said that kickers are considered one of the loneliest players on the football field; but when you have big time programs like Cal, LSU, Arizona, Michigan, BYU, Kansas State, Army and Utah knocking at your door you feel anything but alone.

Such is the case for Pine View High School all special teams player Riley Stephenson, a 6'0", 175-pound kicker considered one of the top in the country.

"I'm all special teams," said Stephenson. "I do kickoffs, field goals, punts and anything that has to do with kicking, onside kicks and what ever."

Rated as one of the top kickers in the country following his participation in a national punt, pass and kick combine a few years ago, Riley feels he's a much better kicker now heading into his senior year of prep football.

"I did the national punt pass and kick," said Stephenson. "It's an event where you go out and you punt it and then throw it like a pass and then you use a tee and kick it. They then add up your total feet. The first time I tried it they would let you have two tries, but then the years after that they only let you do it once and so you had to be really good to get a good score. I took third in the nation. That was pretty fun because I got to go back to Pittsburg and go to the playoff game."

That performance, along with a solid Junior season, must have captured the interest of potential college suitors, as Stephenson's mailbox has been overflowing with recruiting letters.

"I've received letters from BYU, Utah, Arizona, Cal, LSU and I'm always getting mail from Northwestern," said Stephenson. "I got a bunch of stuff from Kansas State, Michigan, Army, Michigan State and that's all I can think of right now.

"LSU came out here and Kansas State came out to my school. Arizona State came to my school a few days ago before school got out but I didn't get a chance to talk to them though."

"We've got about 5 inches worth of letters," said Riley's mother Melanie Stephenson. "They are everywhere, BYU, Arizona State, BYU, UofU, Northwestern and, oh my gosh, I'm not even covering half of them. He's only a junior and still has one more year. I can't imagine what it's going to be like next year."

Riley's parents and five siblings all happen to be big BYU fans.

"[The BYU coaches] checked into when he would graduate, when his birthday is, when he would go on his mission and where they could fit him in with his kicking. There are two boys ahead of Riley right now and one is coming home off his mission and I think there is another that was going to transfer in one more year. They've got it kind of figured out so that's why they said we're calling you now is because we've got this open for you now, and we would really like for you to come to BYU and have a full ride scholarship just waiting for him. That's what they told him," said Melanie.

So how would Riley Stephenson feel about going to BYU to play football?

"I would be totally excited," he said. "Right now for me it's probably the best place. There are some colleges that will give you some lee way and let you go on a mission and then you can come back and play but there's not too many. That's the main reason why I would want to go to BYU."

Melanie Stephenson echoed her son's comments.

"I really like BYU, and I like knowing it's in Utah," she said. "I also like knowing it's an LDS school."

Called by many locally as "The End Zone," Stephenson loves to watch the ball sail over the heads of opposing punt returners.

"I just try and kick it out of the end zone," said Stepehenson. "When I was a freshman, I was on the varsity team and didn't do kickoffs. I just did field goals and I tried to do kickoffs but could only kick it maybe about forty yards. Last year that's when I started kicking it off into the end zone and now everyone expects me to kick it into the end zone. The coaches are like we don't want anything returned, so it's just easier to kick it out. We don't even need special teams.

"That's probably my most fun thing to do. It gets the crowed all fired up, it gets James [Lark] ready to go out and score another touchdown and it's just the funnest thing."

"It's always funny to watch the other team just watch the ball go over their head. They just shake their heads and walk off the field. Kickoffs are probably my most favorite but for field goals I probably attempted six and I made all six of them, but I actually made two game winning field goals. I made a 35 yarder to win the game and 28 yarder to win the game."

The low number of field goal attempts can be attributed to Pine View's very own dynamic quarterback, James Lark. A good friend of Stephenson, Lark broke Utah's touchdown passing record this past season. However, because Lark scored often, it gave Stephenson a chance to break some records of his own.

"I took All-State First Team and I'm pretty sure I've either tied or am pretty close to tying the career PAT record in Utah," said Stephenson. "By the end of this up and coming season I'll be able to take it easily. It's upwards of 130 right now. The way we score on our team it shouldn't be too hard to pass it up."

So does Stephenson and Lark ever talk about playing together at the D-1 level together?

"We talk back and forth on where we are going," Stephenson said. "Just from what I've heard he wants to go on a mission and it's the same thing as me and it's just a better for us to go [to BYU] and then come back and play football."

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