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Bryant getting his kicks in

Richland High graduate Michael Bryant didn't kick a football in a game in high school or college.

Yet somehow, the former director of media relations for the Tri-Cities Fever is kicking for a professional football team.

Bryant, who left the Fever to accept a job as the director of media relations and the assistant director of team operations for the Ogden Knights of the American Indoor Football Association, is now that team's lone kicker.

After the starting kicker quit the team, and the head coach saw what Bryant could do, he accepted a second job for the team, lining up for extra points.

"It's a blast," Bryant said. "It's something I never expected to do."

As losses piled up for the Knights early in the season and the organization struggled -- the team canceled home games -- several players stopped showing up to play, according to Bryant. Head coach Doug Coleman -- the former quarterback who led the Fever to the National Indoor Football League title in 2005 -- looked for new players to step up. One came from the media box.

"We had training camp and I just worked out with the team," Bryant said. "It was guys just being guys. The third week of the season, a lot of out of town players didn't want to come back because we had a bye week and no home games. Coach was looking for players, and said, 'If you're good enough, you'll play.' "

The longtime intramural soccer player practiced extensively to improve his kicking ability and landed the roster spot, despite limited football experience as a defensive end his freshman and sophomore years of high school.

"I didn't even kick in high school," said Bryant, who stuck with wrestling and golf instead, and was on the bowling team at Washington State University before getting a B.A. in Sports Management to pursue a professional career that led him to Ogden. "The last time I kicked competitively was in middle school.

"In college we joked around about our kicker and asked which of us could kick a 42-yarder. Four of us could."

The adjustment from a tie to a helmet wasn't an easy one, though.

"My first field goal attempt I missed by a mile," Bryant said.

And Bryant isn't expected to come in and kick the team to victory, either.

"Coach expects every ball that's not going to be an 'uno' to just kick out of bounds," Bryant said. "We kick it out of bounds so no one returns it. We play for field position. If I have to kick a 50-yard field goal, we just kick it out of bounds."

But he is all the team's got currently, and he's relishing the opportunity to live out a dream.

"Kicking is a dream come true," Bryant said. "To finally get to play at the professional level (is great)."

Bryant will have to eventually pick a hat, though, as the success of his media relations career banks on the team getting better. The team getting better will ultimately mean higher profile players come in to replace the currently thrown together makeshift squad.

"I'd love to (keep kicking)," Bryant said. "But at the same time, I love my professional job. It would be really disappointing (to lose that). It's hard to market yourself, and my professional career has more longevity. That's where I got my degree."

The Knights concluded the 2010 campaign Saturday in Yakima, finishing 0-13 on the year. What comes next is the shuffling and scrambling to fix the wrongs of a winless season. One way or another, Bryant hopes when next season rolls around, he still has a job.

"A lot of it depends on where the ownership goes," he said. "Everyone here is trying everything. Everyone wants this to be successful. It's hard to be successful when you don't have anyone backing you up. It's hard to push that out without a winner."