The swimmers, gymnasts and volleyball players who gathered from all over the globe for the World University Games couldn’t understand what Coley Kyman was doing. Their familiarity with the javelins and field hockey sticks of the games didn’t extend to the pigskin Kyman was throwing.
Kyman also didn’t fit in at the Olympic Stadium in Greece. He was the only member of the U.S. national volleyball team running the steps in preparation for football practice. But that’s how Kyman spent his summer, squeezing pass plays between sets and spikes.
Now, for the first time in his career, Kyman, a three-time All-American volleyball player at Cal State Northridge, is squeezing out volleyball in favor of his first love.
His dream came true Wednesday when he was selected as the starting quarterback for the Matadors’ season opener Saturday night against host San Diego State. He won the job over Clayton Millis, a transfer from Oregon.
It is with renewed confidence that Kyman runs the Northridge offense, from his command in the huddle to his stride to the line.
Considering he missed spring drills because the Matadors reached the NCAA title game in his last season of volleyball eligibility, and in light of his late, mid-July decision to leave the national volleyball team for the chance to be a starting quarterback, it seems odd that Kyman would be more self-assured.
“Maybe it’s because it’s my last time to play football in college,” Kyman said. “Since I did come back, I want to make myself the best I can be. If it’s watching more film, running more sprints, I’ll do it. Maybe I just feel more confident because I have a chance to play.”
Quarterbacks coach Dale Bunn buys into that theory. Last season, Bunn failed to persuade Kyman that he could compete for the starting job against incumbent Marty Fisher.
“He would always tell me how good the volleyball team was going to be and I would tell him I didn’t want to hear about it, that I wanted him to concentrate on football,” Bunn said. “Deep down inside I know he wasn’t totally into it because Marty Fisher was the man.”
When fall camp opened two weeks ago, Bunn met a newly focused player reaching back to his roots.
“I love football,” Kyman said. “I played as a kid long before I ever picked up a volleyball.”
Kyman also returned out of loyalty to his teammates and his school. When he made his decision to return to Northridge for his last season of football, he was out of the country and unaware that Millis planned to transfer to the school.
“I might have felt I would have been letting a lot of people down if I didn’t come back,” he said. “Volleyball’s a big part of my life, but so is CSUN. Even if I’m not the starter, I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
His teammates responded to his commitment and recognized his leadership skills by electing him offensive captain.
“It’s a role I like and I take with pride,” Kyman said.
Certainly, his popularity played a part in the vote. The 6-foot-6 Kyman is arguably the most popular, if not the most visible man on campus. He supports fellow athletes in all sports and is particularly vocal as a member of the Matamaniacs, a group of male athletes who wear makeup and women’s clothes to men’s basketball games. He is also a clever and incessant heckler at baseball and women’s softball games.
With a winsome determination, Kyman always seems to come out on top.
“Coley’s a winner,” Bunn said. “He showed it on the volleyball court. He’s always going to find a way to win.”
As the third-string quarterback in his freshman season at Northridge, Kyman replaced the two injured players ahead of him and rallied the Matadors to a victory over Eastern New Mexico.
As a sophomore, his season ended during the second game of the season when he broke his collarbone in relief of the injured Fisher.
Last season, he appeared in six games in place of Fisher, completing 20 of 45 passes for 257 yards.
Now, it is his time.
“I’m really excited,” Kyman said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
Clayton Millis said that coach Dale Bunn’s decision to start Coley Kyman is the right one, though he doesn’t view it as the final decision for the season. “I think he had a little better camp,” Millis said. “To beat him out, I had to really shine above him. I’m happy for him and I think we’ll both play against San Diego State.”
In the meantime, Millis is working on being more patient. “I have to take what the defense gives me,” he said. “A couple times, I was trying to make the big play when easier things were available.”
The practice statistics for Kyman: 226 completions in 314 attempts with 40 dropped passes and five interceptions. Millis completed 217 of 313 with 36 dropped passes and eight interceptions. . . . Wide receiver Victor Prince (slight shoulder separation) practiced for the second consecutive day and should start Saturday.
Matt Ornelaz kicked field goals Wednesday for the first time since tearing his quadriceps muscle Aug. 23. “He looked OK,” Coach Bob Burt said. “If it feels good tomorrow, he’ll make the trip (to San Diego).” At the time of his injury, Ornelaz was slightly ahead of Jason Camp in the battle for starting kicker. Albert Razo is the punter for the third consecutive season.