Michigan State football

© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State football: Bryce Baringer has gone from walk-on to Ray Guy favorite

Bryce Baringer was once an afterthought, but the Michigan State football star has gone from walk-on to Ray Guy Award favorite.

Michigan State football star punter Bryce Baringer has a story that inspires so many. To stick with what you love, even if you don’t get the opportunity at the beginning, is admirable.

Baringer grew up in Waterford, Mich., and attended Notre Dame Prep and Marist Academy and was one of the best punters in the state from his class. But he had a lack of exposure because his school did not punt often. After his senior season, he didn’t have very many offers due to that lack of exposure and signed a national letter of intent to play at Southern Illinois but was granted a release and chose to play at Illinois as a preferred walk-on; he redshirted in his true freshman season.

After his true freshman season, Baringer chose to transfer back to his home state and to a school that he always loved: Michigan State.

The Michigan State football roster was at full capacity so he was just a student and stuck around just in case. He took part in two MSU tryouts but wasn’t offered a spot on the roster after either one.

In 2018, Michigan State went to the West Coast to play Arizona State, and starting punting Jake Hartbarger got injured that game, tearing his ACL. On top of that, later in the season, backup punter Tyler Hunt also tore his ACL which opened up a spot for Baringer and he played in four games and punted 15 times for an average of 32.4 yards.

The 2019 season was very bleak for Baringer who was cut from the team with Hartbarger and Hunt both back and healthy and with Australian punter Jack Bouwmeester also coming in. Michigan State’s staff gave him field access to do his favorite hobby of photography, but Bryce continued to work out and he practiced his punting independently.

In early 2020 with new head coach Mel Tucker at MSU, Bryce got the call he was hoping for: Michigan State needed a punter. He entered the season in a competition with graduate transfer Mitchell Crawford from UTEP. Baringer won the job in the early part of the season and averaged 43.6 yards per punt on 37 punts.

Before Michigan State’s first 2021 game in Evanston against Northwestern, he earned a scholarship from Tucker. He had a phenomenal 2021 season which saw him set an MSU single-season record with his 48.4-yard punting average which also ranked second-best in Big Ten history. Baringer had one of his best games of the season at home against Nebraska when MSU honored former MSU punter Mike Sadler with whom he was close, and former Nebraska punter Sam Foltz.

Bryce entered his final season at Michigan State ranked as the best punting prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper. Currently, he leads the Big Ten and FBS in average at 49.6 yards per punt and also leads the Big Ten and is third nationally in net punting at 46.3 yards.

Baringer will likely win the Ray Guy Award, given to the country’s best punter, and his story is a reminder to always follow your dream no matter how long you have to work for the right opportunity.

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