When an athlete the likes of Ryan Kessman bursts onto the scene, everyone knows who he is, but sometimes, that attention is not positive.
Yesterday, Ryan Kessman received a phone call from his father Steve who wanted to give him the news that he has received a scholarship offer from the University of Tulsa.
"I gave Ryan a call and said, ‘Hey, guess what? You just got a scholarship offer,'" said Steve Kessman. "Ryan said, ‘Well, I have more important things going on—I just got attacked.' That's when I dropped everything."
"Coach Powell called to let us know," chuckled Ryan. "Then my dad called me right after that and let me know that I was offered a scholarship by Tulsa. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, that's kind of cool,' but he actually called me when I was at the police station."
"He told me a couple of sentences about what happened," said Steve. "I just said, ‘I'm on my way.' I dropped everything I was doing and ran down to the sheriff's department."
Although Ryan was honored by the thought of Tulsa extending a scholarship offer, the gesture was overshadowed by a nerve-racking incident involving an assault motivated by bigotry.
"It was just [Tuesday] that Ryan was going through the drive through at Taco Bell," said Steve. "He was by himself and when he got his food, he put it on the passenger seat. He then noticed out of the corner of his eye someone bursting through the door of Taco Bell coming out towards him."
"I was at the drive through and I had just got my food so my window was down," Ryan explained. "I went to put my food down in my passenger seat because I didn't want to carry it with me in my lap. I then turned back around and saw the door of Taco Bell fly open. I looked really quick because I saw it in my peripheral vision. I see this kid running at me full speed, and he throws a punch at me through my window. I have pretty good reflexes from being in Jiu Jitsu, and I just moved back quickly to get away from it and blocked it. From there he started yelling, ‘White power!' and saying a bunch of things, and then he spit on my car. I rolled up my window at tried to get the heck out of the parking lot."
Ryan was shocked by what was taking place.
"Ryan was thinking, ‘What the heck is this?' and when he ran out of the door he tried to punch Ryan with his fist while Ryan was in the car. That's when he whipped out his knife and tried to stab him," said Steve. "He missed Ryan but then started yelling anti-Semitic slurs. He started yelling, ‘White power and [expletive] the Jews, [expletive] the Jews!' He started calling Ryan, ‘You [expletive] Jew' and then he spit, which landed between the front seat window and the rear passenger window."
Ryan quickly tried to get out of the parking lot when six other of the assailant's cronies came storming out of the restaurant to help corner the frightened teenager.
"His first thought was to get out of there and he punched the gas peddle down and tried to get out of the parking lot," Steve said. "Then around six other guys came out of the door. Out of the side view mirror, Ryan saw one of the other guys pulled a knife out of his belt. They tried to trap Ryan in the parking lot so they could get him. Ryan tried to turn right but couldn't because there was a car parked there. So he quickly made a left-hand turn to get out of there as quickly as he could and lost control almost hitting a semi truck that was sitting there. They were still trying to corner and capture him but by this time he had his window rolled up and one of the kids just threw his knife at Ryan, which hit the driver's side of the car. After that he just took off and went straight to the sheriff's department."
"It wouldn't have been a big deal if it was just him," Ryan claimed. "I probably just would have taken him on because he was just one guy, but then after that a total of six guys came out and I was like, ‘What the heck!' Then there were knives and all that so I just took off. Right after that I went down to the police station and filed a report."
Ryan recognized the young man who tried to assault him from school.
"He recognized the one kid that came out and attacked him from school," Steve explained. "This is how he knew Ryan was Jewish—from high school. There are only two Jewish kids in the school and so Ryan got singled out pretty quickly."
While giving a report on the incident, the local sheriff, who happened to be the wrestling coach at San Jacinto, knew of anti-Semitic hatred that had been directed towards Ryan in the past. The sheriff and his partner quickly moved into action.
"Fortunately, the sheriff that was there was the San Jacinto wresting coach and knows Ryan and me," said Steve. "He knows that Ryan has dealt with anti-Semitic remarks and has been jumped before at school for anti-Semitic reasons, and so he was sympathetic towards Ryan. He and another sheriff got in the car and took off to go find the kid. Our main concern right now is Ryan's safety. I hate to say it, and I hate to have people determine how you have to run your life under lock and key, but the bottom line is we have to keep Ryan safe."
After having gone through the emotional ordeal with the NCAA prior to this life-threatening altercation, Ryan is doing his best to keep his head up with the heart of a Cougar.
"I'm doing pretty good," Ryan laughed. "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger! That's the way I see it."
A timely visit by BYU assistant coach Patrick Higgins yesterday helped lighten Ryan's burdens. Higgins made a personal visit to help prepare Ryan to sign his letter of intent to play football at Brigham Young University.
"I'm doing good," said Ryan. "Coach Higgins came by today. We just talked for a little while. We're just getting everything ready, making sure we know how to sign the letter of intent, and know what needs to be done. He was just making sure we know what to do and what to sign and all that stuff to make sure we get everything signed by 7:00 in the morning here—so that would be 8:00 there in Utah—and just fax it over. I'm definitely excited. That's one of the biggest parts and the first step.""
While Coach Higgins was visiting the Kessmans, Ryan told him the about the attack.
"Yeah, he just said that is absolutely crazy," chuckled Ryan. "I was like, ‘Yeah, tell me about it.' Coach Higgins is a good guy, and he was mad about it. He was like, ‘This is absolutely ridiculous that you have to go through this.' He was like, ‘This is absolutely just stupid.' He was pretty mad about it."
The Kessman family expects to receive a copy of the official letter of intent from BYU in the next couple of days.