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OSU kicker Crist eager to face old team

CORVALLIS — Ian Crist let his mind wander last March while moving into Corvallis for the start of Oregon State’s spring practices.

The 5-foot-10, 173-pound kicker thought about warming up Aug. 30 before a packed Reser Stadium crowd. He envisioned glancing downfield and seeing his former Portland State teammates, the primary support system his first year and a half of college.

Man, that’d be pretty cool, Crist told himself.

It was a daydream born from friendship, not animosity. Crist, content with how he left the Vikings, wanted to share a grand stage with old buddies. But first he had to make OSU’s official roster.

Fast-forward five months. Crist is the Beavers’ second-string kicker, a walk-on just an injury away from starting on Saturdays. If the season opener follows script, a sizable lead should give special teams coordinator Bruce Read the luxury of letting Crist best a daydream. He may step on the field for more than warm-ups.

“We’ve already talked about it,” Read said Monday. “I think if the right situation could occur, that’d be really awesome. I think it’d be really fun for him.”

As a kid growing up in Silverton, Crist chose orange over green. He donned OSU gear to watch the Beavers on TV. He pondered someday suiting up for a Mike Riley squad.

The problem? Crist was a soccer player. The forward settled for scoring goals, though he often wanted to split uprights.

Crist’s powerful right leg was limited to the soccer field until the summer before his junior year at Silverton High School. That’s when Foxes head football coach John Mannion found the soccer standout drilling field goals.

Crist spent that fall shuttling between football and soccer practice. By the following summer, he was attending Kohl’s National Scholarship Camp at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He kicked alongside several hundred of the nation’s top prep kickers. He learned that his dynamic leg could land him on a college roster.

Crist returned to Silverton and quit the varsity soccer team, which he had made as a freshman, to focus on football. His senior season came and went. Crist agreed to walk on to Portland State, the only Division I school showing interest.

In the final weeks of his senior year, Crist received a call from Read. The Beavers wanted him to walk on to a team featuring Trevor Romaine, who was fresh off becoming the first freshman since Alexis Serna in 2004 to serve as OSU’s starting kicker.

“It was really last minute,” Crist said. “It just didn’t really work out.”

He moved an hour north and redshirted the Vikings’ 2012 season. Last year, Crist was the third cog in a kicking rotation that went a combined 3-for-16 on field goals. His lone on-field cameo was a kickoff against Weber State that ended in a touchback.

But his location on the depth chart wasn’t the problem. After spending his childhood in a town of about 9,000, Crist had a tough time adjusting to Portland. The streetcars and numerous pedestrians wore on him.

Crist called Mannion, whose son, Sean, had developed into a record-setting Beavers quarterback. He told his former coach that he wanted to transfer to Corvallis, with or without football. He would be content taking business courses and hanging out with his many Silverton friends at OSU.

Mannion passed the message along to Read. This past spring, Crist impressed coaches in minimal reps. He opened fall camp without a roster spot. With a 105-man limit, OSU didn’t have room for a third kicker.

Crist attended every practice anyway. He shagged balls, returning later in the afternoon to lift weights and kick field goals on his own.

Last Wednesday, Crist awoke to a text message from Read. Romaine was no longer with the team due to an “off-the-field matter.” Crist had been officially added to the roster.

“It was a good way to wake up for sure,” Crist recalled with a smile. “It was probably one of the best mornings I’ve had in a while.”

He has needed less than a week to showcase his range, trajectory and consistency. Though Owens has solidified the first-string job, Read appreciates having quality depth at kicker.

“It’d be great to reward (Crist) with a kick or two against his old team,” Read said.