Former Payson High School football star Ryan Lorentz's first collegiate gridiron outing turned into an indoctrination by fire.
Playing as a freshman member of Arizona Western College, the Matadors were hosting the Arizona All-Stars, a rough and tumble collection of ex-collegiate players. With nary a tick of the clock of collegiate experience, Lorentz was thrust into the game as inside linebacker.
Only seconds into the contest, he found himself hunkered down three yards off the line of scrimmage, anxiously waiting for an All-Star play to develop.
Eyeing the quarterback, Lorentz decided on a stunt move.
"I just went straight up a hole and grabbed the quarterback, picked him up and threw him down," he said. "I didn't even know really what happened until I ran off the field and the coaches were slapping me on the back calling me 'Rodeo Ryan'."
Lorentz eventually finished with four solo tackles, five assists and the sack.
"God was watching over me," he said of his first collegiate game.
Since that Sept. 11 opener, Lorentz has gone on to help his team post a 5-3 record that includes a 49-13 win over Scottsdale College Saturday evening in Scottsdale.
Parents Robyn and Mark were there to see their son in action as they have been throughout the course of the season.
"He's doing really well there and likes it there," his father said.
Ryan says he's excited about finally playing on the college level.
"It has been a great experience, learning so much and having a chance to be a part of the team," he said.
Ryan's goal is to help the Matadors win their next two games and earn a berth into post-season play.
"We are number one in our conference. We want to win it and go on to a bowl game," the 6-foot, 3-inch, 215-pound defensive specialist said.
With the season winding down, Lorentz is currently holding down a second team linebacker position and is a starter on special teams -- kick off and punt -- where he has excelled. His accomplishments included 16 total tackles, two of which were solo.
Payson fans remember Lorentz as a three-year varsity starter for the Longhorns who helped the team capture the Class 3A state championship one year ago.
His Rim country gridiron career began on Rim Country Middle School's inaugural 1994 football. Playing tight end and defensive end, he paced the Mavericks to an undefeated season and the White Mountain League championship.
After earning the freshman football team's most valuable defensive award in 1995, Lorentz went on to capture a bevy of honors and accolades.
As a junior in 1997, he was named first team all-division and all-conference and was one of the team captains.
At the conclusion of the Horns' state championship year, he again received all-division and all-state laurels. He also was tapped the team's most valuable defensive player and was honored on three occasions by a Phoenix television station.
In addition to playing linebacker for the Horns, Lorentz also saw time as a tight end and fullback during his prep career.
Football wasn't his only athletic endeavor --Lorentz also shined on the basketball court for former coach Jim Quinlan. The youngster developed a tough-guy image for his play around the basket that helped him win both rebounding and defensive awards.
The demands of balancing academic pursuits with athletic achievements while holding part-time jobs, Lorentz said, "has all been worth it."
The rewards of the sacrifices, he said, include learning "determination, respect and responsibility."
Lorentz was active outside the athletic arena serving in student council, as a hospital volunteer, a teaching aide to learning impaired and Sunday school teacher.
In college, Lorentz has not yet settled on a major, but would like to explore the fields of engineering or finance.