Ryan Bay was told by coaches that he’d be a scout-team guy his whole career.
After five seasons of being with the Oregon football team, the Tigard, Oregon, native finally got his chance to celebrate inside the confines of Autzen Stadium. Bay scored his first touchdown as a Duck on Saturday against Nevada, but the road to this point has been anything but easy.
“It’s words undescribed. It’s the road less taken,” Bay said. “I’m not going to say any names, but there were times I was told that I’d be a scout-team guy my whole career. I’ve been through three different head coaches, five different position coaches, and it's been a battle that I wouldn’t change for anything.”
The 6-foot-3, 237-pound tight end wasn’t always focused on football.
Bay, prior to becoming a walk-on for the Ducks, only played two seasons of high school football and was primarily focused on basketball. After only playing football his freshman year in high school, Bay focused on basketball for his sophomore and junior years. It was not until his senior year that he rediscovered his passion for football.
Before his senior year, Bay transferred to Tigard High School from Jesuit High School to focus on football. He finished his senior year at Tigard with 195 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers helped him receive a full scholarship from Eastern Washington, but Bay had other plans.
After declining Eastern Washington, Bay chose to walk on at Oregon. And after five seasons, Bay got his chance to celebrate his road to No. 1.
With fellow tight end Cam McCormick nursing an injury, Bay, along with Jacob Breeland, has stepped up as one of the premier tight ends on the team.
“One guy goes down, the next guy has to step up,” Bay said. “A big thing about our culture is trust. … It’s a huge trust factor that comes through our coaching staff and our players, and we take a lot of pride in that. When it’s time to do your job, do your job.”
It was time for Bay to do his job.
With the Ducks up 14-6 in the second quarter against Nevada, Oregon was in Nevada territory looking to score. Herbert took the snap, faked a handoff to running back Travis Dye and found Bay wide open in the middle of the field for a 16-yard touchdown completion.
“Another great guy that is so deserving and doesn’t get the credit that he deserves,” Herbert said. “One of those guys that just blocks so well. Made some big plays, and it was really cool to see him score today.”
Prior to his first career touchdown as a Duck, Bay was known more for his blocking ability. He was helping aid the Ducks’ running game more than making big plays for himself.
From walk-on to scoring his first touchdown, Bay has been able to adapt to whatever the Oregon coaching staff has asked of him over the long, five-year process.
“One thing I’m going to learn from continuing on my business career or football career is adaptability,” Bay said. “Learning how to adapt to different coaches, coaching styles, what’s required, emphasis on technique, you could go on forever.”
Bay, now a senior majoring in human physiology, will be looking to continue his career as Oregon’s tight end for now. Whatever road they ask him to take, he wants to make an impact.
“It’s been a journey,” Bay said. “It’s a great story I can tell wherever I go as far as football afterwards. I can look back at myself and sleep at night knowing that I gave everything I had. I still have a long season to go and am counted on for a lot of my roles and making big plays.”
Follow Gabriel on Twitter @gabe_ornelas