In the ‘kick’ of time: Lloyd’s academic clearance is U’s gain

The first time Rhys Lloyd kicked a football will always make him crack a smile. Lucky for Lloyd, Eastview High School football coach Kelly Sherwin noticed how the kick cracked the wall in the process.

Before then, Sherwin had been Lloyd’s track and field coach. But when the sophomore damaged Disney’s Wide World of Sports NFL exhibit during spring break in Florida, Sherwin saw a football player.

“They had a fake wall set up,” Lloyd said. “I hit the wall and busted one of the heads of the (fake) guys. I put a little bit of effort into it.”

Lloyd, who moved from England to Minnesota at age 15, began kicking more American footballs in the years following that vacation.

The strange path he followed led to the University, when he was cleared academically the day before Saturday’s contest with Tulsa.

The path began when his father, Bryn Lloyd, tore his anterior cruciate ligament while playing professional soccer in England. The elder Lloyd played for Charlton Athletic and the Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English Premier League.

He retired from professional soccer and was offered a job as director of player and coach development with DAKOTA Rev Soccer Club in Rosemount, Minn. DAKOTA Rev is a traveling soccer program for Minnesota Independent School District 196.

Bryn, his wife Denise, daughter Danielle and Rhys packed their bags for Minnesota, leaving their hometown of Dover, England, behind.

Rhys got to know Sherwin when he became involved in track at Eastview High School, where Bryn is still varsity soccer coach. After that spring break with his track team, Rhys found a new sport of choice.

He turned down Division I soccer offers from Drake, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and others. He was in contact with Minnesota, but could not be admitted because he never took an ACT exam.

“Coming out of high school, my academic adviser at Eastview told me I didn’t need to take an ACT to get into a college,” Lloyd said. “That was kind of stupid. So (the Gophers) sent me down to Rochester (Community and Technical College) for two years.”

Lloyd went to RCTC with the idea of catching on with the Gophers when he was finished. In his two years with the Yellow Jackets of the National Junior College Athletic Association, Lloyd was 23-for-41 on field goals and 118-for-120 on extra points.

Lloyd claims he kicked a 70-yard field goal during pre-game warm-ups while at the Yellow Jackets’ home field at Rochester Century High School. RCTC coach Tom Hosier backed up the contention, but also made mention of a few gusts of wind on that particular day.

Hosier recently coached kicker Adam Benike as well. Last season, Benike was named first-team All-Big 12 as a junior at Iowa State.

“(Lloyd) is one of the best kickers in America,” Hosier said. “I’ve had a couple of the best kickers in America for the past two years. To have kickers like that is a special thing.”

After two years of grooming, Lloyd was all set to take graduate Dan Nystrom’s place at Minnesota.

But when Lloyd’s official transcript got lost in the mail between Rochester and Minneapolis, the clearing process was delayed.

He began practicing with the Gophers just a week before the Tulsa game.

The first kick his new coach saw would be memorable as well.

“The first time he kicked off on our practice field, it went out of the end zone and over the fence into the baseball diamond,” Gophers head coach Glen Mason said after Saturday’s game. “On Thursday (Aug. 28) we had a kickoff contest. The other competition fell out of the picture. They all deserved a chance. But right now, Rhys Lloyd is our kicker.”

Lloyd did not attempt a field goal in the 49-10 thumping of the Hurricane. But he was five-for-five on extra point attempts and boomed six of eight kickoffs inside Tulsa’s three-yard line.

It remains to be seen how accurate Lloyd will be for Minnesota on field goals. Hosier admitted they are the weakest part of his game, but that his long leg will make focusing on accuracy easier.

Lloyd has faith in his accuracy as well. For now, it seems to be the next logical step in his four-year excursion into a different brand of football.

With the amount of frustration he has endured to get to Minnesota, Lloyd is particularly pleased these days.

But one of his reasons for this contentment is even further from the football field than his first practice kick at the Gibson/Nagurski football complex.

“I like how it’s all set up here,” Lloyd said. “And it’s only a 25-minute drive home. I like taking my wash home to my mom.”