BOWLING GREEN - Nate Fry has an opinion on what his legacy at Bowling Green State University will be.
"He was a punter. With guts."
In the third quarter of BGSU's season opener at Wisconsin and his team down 42-35, Fry, a senior out of Findlay, set up to punt on fourth-and-6 at the Falcons' 24. But when he caught the ball, Fry took off to the left on a fake, a few assistant coaches running on the sidelines with him, perhaps out of sheer anxiety.
Fry gained 16 yards on the run and gave the Falcons' offense a second chance. That was worth it for whatever wrath he might face.
"It wasn't called," Fry said. "I had the option of running, but coach told me, 'Don't think about it, just punt it,' because I don't think he thought it would be open. Once the ball was snapped I looked at the coverage, and just took off. Everybody on the sidelines could see my eyes, they looked twice as big. Thank God you can't see that on camera. I was moving about five times as fast as I normally would."
That play was a thrill for Fry. The 10 extra points he kicked pulling double duty against Temple last week, tying a school and Mid-American Conference record - that was his job. Fry's performance on Saturday gave the Falcons much-needed consistency in the kicking game, something they had been searching for since Joe Timchenko missed three extra points in the first two games.
"Last weekend was what I'm expected to do," Fry said. "Because I don't get many chances, I try to be perfect when I go out there. If I don't get any praise from anybody, that's OK with me."
Of course, he did get praise. BGSU coach Gregg Brandon congratulated Fry throughout the game, and again afterwards.
"I thought Nate was outstanding," Brandon said. "His kickoffs were great, he had a really nice punt with some hang time, his extra points were perfect. He did a really nice job."
In his third year as the No. 1 punter, Fry was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list before the start of the season. This season Fry has shown his talent on several high, hanging punts with lengths measuring 54, 53 and 51 yards. He has averaged 38.9 yards per punt this season, but that's because the Falcons' strategy sometimes involves line-drive rugby-style punts to catch the return team off-guard.
Fry came to BGSU on scholarship in 2001 after an all-state
senior year at Findlay as the punter and kicker. (His predecessor as Findlay's kicker was Josh Huston, who is now at Ohio State.)
If not for a back injury in the weight room that forced him to take a medical redshirt his freshman year, he might not have had the chance to kick again. Shaun Suisham had control of the job starting that year through 2004.
The opportunity for Fry came again when Timchenko missed two extra points at Ball State and Brandon re-opened the place-kicking job. Fry won it, but he missed an extra point in his debut at Boise State and the coaches used Timchenko on the other two scores.
But with Timchenko bothered by a strained quadriceps, Fry got a second chance against Temple and capitalized.
"I wanted to make a good impression on the coaches, show them I could come in right away without missing a beat," Fry said. "That didn't happen, but I think the coaches knew me well enough that they still knew I could do the job."
BGSU has not attempted a field goal this season, and Fry said that's what he hopes to try next. Brandon hasn't ruled it out.
"I'm not afraid to attempt a field goal with Fry," Brandon said. "Every situation that has come up, we've kept the ball and kept it moving."
Fry likes having added duties. If he had just punted on Saturday, he would have only gotten on the field twice in his senior year homecoming game.
"It keeps my mind free, because I know I could go in the game at any time," Fry said. "I don't worry so much about one thing, it's kind of nice."