Beyond the Jersey: Cajuns Punter Rhys Byrns earns Sun Belt honors

Cajun Nation

In the game against Appalachian State, Cajuns punter Rhys Byrns booted 4 of his 6 punts for more than 50 yards.

That performance earned him Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week honors last week. 

“I didn’t really know too much about it to be honest,” Byrns says. “I didn’t really know it was too much of an award. One of my family members back home actually saw it before I did, which I don’t know how. They sent it to me like two minutes after it happened. I think they were happy so I was happy that they were happy.”

“Rhys is a tremendous teammate,” head coach Billy Napier says. “He takes tremendous pride in his job. I’m glad that we have him. He’s a weapon for us. Certainly tonight, his ability in those hang punt situations to put the ball down there inside of the 10, that was special. Certainly, a lot of the players on that unit did a great job. Rhys is outstanding. Certainly for a true sophomore, and only in his second year of playing American football, he’s made a great transition. He’s a bright spot on our team, and a tremendous teammate so we’re proud of him.”

Byrns didn’t want to take all of the credit for the big performance, though. He credited his teammates for their help in downing four of his punts inside the 20-yard line. 

“Without them, there’s no punt at all,” Byrns says. “A lot of people look at the punter and give him a lot of credit, but there’s people down there downing the ball. There’s people protecting so they don’t rush to me so I can take more time. Those guys do an outstanding job. They’ve done it all year. I can’t thank them enough. They deserve more credit than I do really.”

Growing up in Melbourne, Byrns played Australian football since he was 6 years old. He hadn’t played American football until last year for his freshman season. 

“I didn’t think there was this much to football,” Byrns says. “All the meetings and film review. When you’re watching back home, you kinda just think they run out there and call the play and sorta run it. I never thought this much went into every single play and has a different role.  The biggest thing for me has just been getting used to all of the meetings, going to them, and learning all the plays. My job is pretty simple to be honest. I just go out there and punt it.”

Even though Byrns has gotten the hang of American football, it’s still a sport his family back home is having to get used to. 

“Rhys’s family came to a game a couple weeks ago, and he didn’t get to play,” Napier says. “Their lack of familiarity with the rules, they thought something was wrong. Certainly Rhys got his chances to punt tonight.”

“Yeah, they did think I had done something wrong,” Byrns laughs. “At halftime, Mom was like ‘what’s wrong? Why haven’t you been on the field?’ She thought coach wasn’t playing me because I had done something wrong during the week. I had to explain to her quickly at halftime that it wasn’t something I was doing wrong. It was just the offense doing so good. It’s been like that a lot.”

From not punting at all against Texas Southern to having a career best performance against App State, Byrns says the best part about the Sun Belt honor is seeing how proud his family gets. 

“It’s more so for them to see,” Byrns says. “They don’t really know a whole lot about the sport. They don’t understand it, so a lot of time they don’t really know what’s good and what’s not good. It was good for them to see something went good.”

Rhys and the rest of the Ragin Cajuns will be back in action on November for Louisiana’s Homecoming game against Texas State. 

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