BURNABY — He boasts a given name which, in the musical hands of a Sunday morning gospel choir, could come out sounding pretty darn inspirational.
Rysen… Rysen… Rysen.
Pronounced Risin’ and belonging to one of the tallest wide receivers in all of college football, it’s the handle of Simon Fraser’s 6-foot-7, 221-pound junior Rysen John.
Spectacularly talented with gifts that make him a physical outlier, he has in tougher times battled to find comfort on the field with his height, and comfort in the classroom with his academic regimen.
And now that he has gotten both under his full control, Rysen John is fast becoming a rising force within an SFU Clan program which opens its 2018 campaign at home on Saturday (3 p.m.) against the Willamette Bearcats, hoping in the process to snap its 33-game losing streak.
“His leadership and his development as a player, and as a team leader has been incredible to watch,” says first-year Clan head coach Thomas Ford, who while in love with John’s physical gifts on the football field, is compelled to first talk about the routes his receiver now runs like clockwork as part of his daily off-field routine.
“He has been on the side of scraping to get by academically,” Ford says of John, who last season got a wake-up call by having to miss three games. “Now he has done a 180-degree turn, and it’s a night-and-day change. He took care of his business in the classroom and now he is an advocate for others who might struggle. I can see him being one of those that will help all of the other guys. He learned the hard way, and now he wants to make sure others won’t have to.”
All of this is brought to your attention to provide the best depth and perspective for a student-athlete whose combination of athletic prowess and physical gifting could make him a star in the GNAC and beyond.
In fact, if you ask John how much he has progressed since his high school days at Vancouver College, and through his first two Clan seasons, he paints the picture of a kid who no longer relies solely on his height to succeed.
Instead, added bulk, added muscle and determined training have allowed him to put himself in a position where his height becomes the true X-factor he had always hoped it would be.
“I am trying to use my height to the max but I am also trying to build my straight-line speed right now, because I know it’s going to help make me dangerous,” says John, whom Ford says has benefitted greatly from the tough-love coaching of new receivers coach Mike Rigell, the former BYU product who does triple duty as the Clan’s special teams coach and recruiting coordinator.
Last season, John, who played in seven of the team’s 10 games, caught 23 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns in a challenged offence.
While modest, his 12.6 yards-per-catch average led the team.
Most encouraging as he gets set to begin his junior season?
Ford has watched with a close eye since the start of camp, and what he has seen from a player with extremely long levers, is a much more compact and assured stride on the turf.
“Sometime, players that are his height don’t have the ability to get in and out of breaks,” said Ford, “but he has done nothing but improve.”
How much better has he gotten as a target for senior quarterback Miles Richardson?
“He is 6-7, but he looks like a 6-1 receiver when he is getting in and out of his breaks,” says Ford. “He’s been our big-play guy downfield. He will be a major part of our offence, and I think the only time he is coming out is when he’s tired.”
John’s take on his ability to shrink and then rise within the offence?
“At my height, I really have to bend my knees and my hips to get in and out of my breaks,” he acknowledges. “But I am just excited to be able to get back on the field, especially when I had to deal with those issues last summer. Now, I have no issues and a clear mindset. I am good to go first game out of the gate and I will be good for all 10 games that my team needs me. Each year my stock has been risin’.”
The pun may well be intended, but it’s still pretty inspirational stuff. That’s Rysen rising to the challenge.
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