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Return specialist Ryan Kolb has finally earned Salisbury football's faith

Salisbury's Ryan Kolb wasn't one of the first two options to return punts for the team to start the season. But the sophomore has taken advantage of his opportunity.

"[Junior] Jerome Johnson was slated as the No. 1 punt returner when the season started, but Jerome was hurt the first couple weeks," Sea Gulls coach Sherman Wood said Wednesday. "Our No. 2 returner [freshman Brady Curley] wasn't available, and Ryan Kolb was surprisingly back there fielding punts, and we still didn't believe in him. It just so happened that it fell to him, and when it fell into his lap, he showed the competitiveness and the will to make a play."

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Kolb turned Wood into a believer by returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in a season-opening 41-32 win at Christopher Newport. And Kolb then returned a kickoff 85 yards in Saturday's 59-49 victory against Hartwick.

Kolb is the first Sea Gulls player since at least 2005 to return a kickoff and a punt for scores in the same season. But the 5-foot-7, 180-pound Kolb is not what Wood would call a prototypical return specialist.

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"He's no flashy ball-carrier, and he doesn't have a whole bunch of speed," Wood said. "He's just a rugged-type player. He doesn't look pretty doing it, but the end result is always pretty good."

Although Kolb ranks 12th in Division III in punt return average (16.3 yards) and 24th in kick return average (28.3 yards), he is still learning the nuances of when to field a punt and when to let it go, according to Wood.

"Sometimes the ball hits the ground, and he picks it up and starts running with it for 2 yards," Wood said. "This is his first year as a punt returner, but he makes plays."

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