A year ago, Ryan Gremillion was a student at Northwestern State. Two-plus weeks ago, Gremillion had not traveled to an away game with the Demons.
As Northwestern State put together a 15-play, 72-yard drive late in the second quarter Saturday night against No. 19 Southeastern Louisiana, the chance for the Demons to come away with points rested on Gremillion’s right foot.
Like he has since showing up for walk-on tryouts in February, Gremillion answered the call, connecting on a game-tying, 24-yard field goal. Early in the third quarter, Gremillion added a 25-yard field goal that put the Demons up 20-17.
Gremillion’s pair were the first successful field goals for the Demons this season, and they came from a kicker whose status was uncertain after spring practice.
“When he came out of high school, the opportunity to be part of the 115(-man) roster wasn’t there,” second-year head coach Brad Laird said. “I talked to him about coming to school, and the opportunity came up in the spring. He came out and went through all the drills, even though as a kicker, he didn’t have to. We didn’t have a kicker in the spring, and we kept him on. It was just a question of do we have a spot on the 115 for him in the fall? We did.”
In just six quarters of playing time, Gremillion has rewarded Laird and the Demons by being ready for anything.
An injury to junior Daniel Justino opened a spot on the roster for the Sept. 21 game at Houston Baptist. On the opening kickoff of the second half against the Huskies, starting kicker Scotty Roblow was injured making a tackle, thrusting Gremillion, a 5-foot-11, 178-pounder, into his first collegiate action.
Gremillion has done what Laird and most coaches preach – taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity. A freshman from East Ascension High School, Gremillion has hit all six of his extra-point tries and both field goal attempts in his six quarters after his non-traditional route to Turpin Stadium.
Although he did not join the Demons directly from high school, Gremillion remained committed to his craft.
“I had a weightlifting class for my degree, which helped me stay in shape during the year off,” he said. “After every game on Saturdays, I would go kick on our practice field. Two weeks before walk-on tryouts, I was out there every day to recoup what I had lost in the year I was off.”
Gremillion’s journey has gained him plenty of respect from Demons’ coaches and players alike.
“It’s been awesome,” junior wide receiver Kendrick Price Jr. said. “I call him Legatron. That’s my nickname for him. Ryan’s my guy. It’s been good to see him make plays in an area where we’ve needed someone to step up.”
That same energy flows between all of NSU’s specialists, Gremillion said.
Part of it is the nature of the position while another part is built from the time the kickers, punter Parker Pastorello and long snapper Evan Gibson spend as a group during practice.
“We’re a very tight-knit group,” Gremillion said. “There’s a competition between us, and I love it. Scotty won the job in training camp, so I took on the role of supporting him, pushing him to be better. There’s some back-and-forth on the field, but we’re always supporting each other. It’s something I really enjoy.”
Similarly, Laird and the Demons have enjoyed what Gremillion has brought to the kicking game and an example of what Laird asks of his players.
“Ryan is a guy who shows up every day and works,” Laird said. “He’s done everything we asked of him. The opportunity presented itself, and what better way to answer than for him to get two field goals in a game? Those points were huge and will continue to be.
“(New Orleans Saints quarterback) Teddy Bridgewater said after (Sunday’s) game that up to that point, he had no stats, but he was winning in life. What an awesome statement. You can win whether you have stats or not. I see a lot of that in Ryan. He continues to win on and off the field and good things are happening for him.”
Photo: Ryan Gremillion connects on a kick during Saturday’s game against Southeastern Louisiana. Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services