Special Teams Player of the Year
by Aaron Garcia
To the untrained eye, Bryon Fields would simply disappear at times this season.
Not in terms of shrinking when the spotlight trained on him, but in a literal sense.
First, the Providence Day junior would catch the punt, then vanish into the mass of limbs and plastic piling up in front of him. A split-second later, without warning, he’d reappear on the other side, racing alone toward the end zone.
The unwitting audience members pulled up to the stage in this scenario? The opponents chasing him.
But according to Providence Day coach Bruce Hardin, there was no trickery involved in Fields earning Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2011 South Charlotte Special Teams Player of the Year award. No smoke and mirrors. Just good, old-fashioned athletic ability coupled with disciplined blocking.
“You can tell on the sidelines,” Hardin said. “Once a block or two hit, the rest of it, you could just wait for it to happen because you could see it coming. All he needed was that initial block or two to give him five yards, and he had enough field awareness and wiggle that he could create a lot for himself.”
Fields, who also played receiver and defensive back, fielded 24 punts (without a single drop) for 546 yards and four touchdowns this season. Even with a pair of scores called back for penalties, Fields still averaged 22.8 yards per return, which routinely gave the Chargers’ offense solid starting field position.
But Hardin added Fields’ success wasn’t simply a product of good blocking.
“Once he gets going on the field, he’s hard to catch because he can cut and stop on a dime,” Hardin said. “It makes it tough. If you’re cautious, he’s gone.”
Fields credited his preseason preparation and Hardin’s coaching for much of his success, but he also said his emergence as a playmaker on offense and defense this season rolled into his job on special teams, where he played on the punt, punt return and kickoff return teams.
“During the season, you don’t really think about the success too much,” he said. “But after a while, you kind of expect it from yourself. You don’t want to let yourself down, you don’t want to let your team down. Once you start feeling that success, you want more of it.
“This year, I looked at (special teams) like another opportunity to make plays,” he continued. “I really enjoy special teams. A lot of people underestimate it, but it’s a huge part of the game.”