LARAMIE – All Ryan Galovich wanted was a chance, and the University of Wyoming football team gave him one.
Now, the walk-on senior is competing to be the Cowboys’ starting punter.
When the Corvallis, Oregon, product finished high school it appeared his days as a punter and kicker were over. He attended Oregon State in his hometown but didn’t play football. He worked and went to school for two years.
Galovich still wanted to give college football a try. He sent emails to schools to gauge their interest, and Galovich said UW was the only one that responded. It asked him to walk-on.
As a sophomore in 2017, Galovich didn’t appear in any games. Last season after sophomore punter Tim Zaleski suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee during the fifth game against Boise State, Galovich punted 13 times in five games for a 37.9-yard average. He was used mostly in situations to pin teams inside their own 20-yard line, which he did seven times.
Zaleski said he tried to drive a Boise State player out of bounds when he injured his knee. He didn’t punt at all during spring drills as he continued to rehab his knee. In UW’s spring game, Galovich averaged 45.6 yards on five punts with a long of 67 and two downed inside the 20.
Through six practices of fall camp, Galovich and Zaleski are competing for the starting job. Sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl works closely with the kickers and punters and has been impressed with Galovich.
“(Galovich) made some great progress over the summer, and that has really shown so far as his hang time and distance have improved,” Bohl said. “Ryan has been charting better than (Zaleski), but we will know more when both punt in more live situations during camp.”
Galovich said he changed how he trained over the summer. He trained more during the week but with less volume. He also filmed himself punting in order to break down what was working and what wasn’t. Galovich said the work he did with UW’s strength and conditioning staff also made a big difference.
“Those guys are amazing and pushed me to limits I didn’t think I could do,” he said. “So far, all of the work this summer is paying off.”
Zaleski is punting in camp but is still experiencing knee soreness. Nonetheless, there is competition.
“More or less, if somebody else is doing well it is about trying to match that,” Galovich said. “It is not for a competitive purpose, but to make each other better. We feed off each other. If one of us is having a bad day, we talk it over. There is no sulking.”
Galovich has ties to UW and the state. He said his grandfather graduated from UW in the 1940s with an engineering degree. He also said he has family in Thermopolis and Casper.
For Zaleski, his road to recovery has had its ups and downs. The rehab and soreness is one thing, but so is getting back to his craft. He went about eight months from the time of his injury until he could punt again.
“It was almost like re-learning how to punt,” Zaleski said. “I still do every thing the same, but getting back into that motion and repetition has been tough. Punting is a very technical thing. When you take a long time off, it is hard to get back in that routine of things.”
Zaleski’s left leg is his non-kicking leg, and he started punting again back in late May.
“For me, competition brings out the best in everybody,” Zaleski said. “Me and Ryan are great friends. He has been doing great, so I am trying to catch up to him.”
The Cowboys worked out in War Memorial Stadium for the first time during fall camp Thursday morning. They worked out in “spiders,” which are smaller shoulder pads, helmets and shorts.
Bohl said the team did some red zone work.
“(Redshirt freshman starting quarterback) Sean Chambers executed things better, and he is certainly much further a long where he was last year,” Bohl said. “(Sophomore quarterback) Tyler Vander Waal did some good things. Our receivers caught the ball well. (Senior wide receiver Raghib Ismail Jr.) had a particularly good day, and (sophomore wide receiver) Gunner Gentry had a couple of really nice catches.”
UW is a little more than one-quarter of the way through camp.
“We’re about where I thought we would be,” Bohl said. “We’re still in the process of installing. We’re a little bit healthier than maybe what we thought, but there has to be time you have to put your foot down on the gas pedal and get it going.”
Sophomore offensive guard Eric Abojei didn’t finish Wednesday’s practice due to knee soreness, but he practiced Thursday.
“We’re pretty much at full strength right now,” Bohl said.
UW will practice in full pads Saturday.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.