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Sometimes you have to smash through the window of opportunity.
Kyle Kamman, the multitalented freshman quarterback who is playing at Ball State after an outstanding career at Columbus North, has an outside shot of starting in a bowl game for the Cardinals.
Whether time is on Kamman’s side will be decided Sunday when bowl pairings are announced.
Ball State is projected for a Liberty Bowl berth Dec. 31, which probably would be great for the program but a bit harder for Kamman as an individual. You see, Kamman was pushed into action Saturday against Miami (Ohio) when Ball State backup quarterback Kelly Page was injured after replacing initial starting quarterback Keith Wenning the previous week.
Wenning has an Achilles injury, while Page suffered a concussion. One or both should be healthy in time for the Liberty Bowl.
Now consider if Ball State goes to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 15. There is a chance that Wenning or Page, or both, might not be ready. Guess who would be under the bright lights with that scenario?
Wherever Ball State lands, Kamman, a walk-on, is assured of getting more snaps in practice with the first team, and that also might be a huge opportunity for him.
Football can be a cruel game, and it is especially hard on walk-on players. You often hear about the rare exceptions who become starters. But for the most part walk-ons tend to get ground up in the system. They serve a purpose in terms of preparing a team for the opponent, and sometimes can find a role on special teams. Mostly, they do a lot of the necessary work in the background with little opportunity to take a bow on game day.
Kamman has bucked the odds in the past week due to misfortune or fortune, depending on your viewpoint.
Consider Page, a fifth-year senior whose only time on the field this season was during a kick-off return against Central Michigan on Oct. 20. He finally got his shot to play against Ohio when Wenning was hurt. The next week against Miami, Page finally got a start, and in the third quarter he suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the game. Bad luck for him.
Enter Kamman, who really didn’t get much opportunity to show his stuff. Head coach Pete Lembo said before the game that if anything happened to Page, he would keep things as simple as possible for Kamman.
Kamman threw just one pass, a perfectly-good attempt into the end zone that fell incomplete due to some great defense. He also had a wild scramble that put his athleticism on display and eventually ended with a three-yard gain in a play that should have lost 10.
Most of all, Kamman managed the game well, led his team to a victory and didn’t make any mistakes. In an interview on Ball State’s team website, Kamman said he “wanted to make sure I did the little things right.”
I’m sure one thing that he accomplished was proving to Lembo that he can handle things if needed.
Now comes the next step.
Wenning is a junior, so he is going to return as the starter next season. He had started 33 consecutive games before he missed the Miami game. Page will be gone next season, but freshman Ozzie Mann is a scholarship freshman who is being valued as perhaps the next guy. When it came to burning either Kamman’s or Mann’s red-shirt season with one half of action, who was picked?
That might be a hard reality for Kamman down the road, but for now, it might be his best chance to position himself for playing time in the future.
Ball State is sure to bring in more scholarship quarterbacks.
As the Cardinals begin practice for the bowl game, Kamman will have to take each day as his personal bowl game. Every snap he takes in practice will be an opportunity for him to prove that he can lead a Division I team. “I was undervalued coming out of high school,” Kamman said in a Ball State release. I’m sure he is used to proving himself.
It was interesting that Kamman, in a media relations interview, said he could identify with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was not recruited out of Pleasant Valley High School in Northern California. Rogers was almost identical in size to Kamman, who is 6-foot-2, 180. Rogers was forced to attend Butte College before getting discovered by Cal head coach Jeff Tedford.
Kamman is ahead of the curve, but in some ways, in a tougher situation. At a junior college, the best man is going to get the job most of the time and then the opportunity to show his ability in game situations. Major college football is a bit different. Coaches have investments in scholarship players, and it can be tough to upset the apple cart in terms of just getting practice snaps.
With a great month of December, Kamman might just destroy that cart and taste the fruit of his hard work.
Those who watched him play at Columbus North would not be surprised.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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