BY MICHAEL KELLY
MOON, Pa. — Three games into his active playing career with Robert Morris University football, Kyle Buss collected nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
After sitting out his freshman year at the school as a redshirt, the big game was exactly what his confidence needed.
“Once I did it once, I felt like I could do it every game,” said Buss, a Clifton Park native and 2014 graduate of Shenendehowa High School who recently finished up his fall semester at Robert Morris.
Then, Buss came pretty close to going out and doing just that. In the remaining eight games of his season, Buss had multiple receptions in six of them and at least 55 receiving yards in five of those games. In one two-game stretch, Buss hauled in 17 receptions for 298 yards and a touchdown.
Heading into Buss’ 2015 season, Robert Morris head coach John Banaszak — who won three Super Bowl rings playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers — knew the wide receiver had a chance to make an impact right away.
“His athletic ability is something that really sets him apart from a lot of people,” said Banaszak, whose team competes at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision level. “Not only is he fast and quick, but he just does things on a football field that other receivers can’t do.”
That ability was heavily acknowledged and rewarded after Buss’ season wrapped up Nov. 21. On the strength of a campaign in which he led his team in every receiving category despite playing with a rotating cast of quarterbacks, Buss was named Northeast Conference Offensive Rookie of the Year and became the first player in program history to earn a bid as a finalist for the STATS National Freshman Player of the Year.
“Seeing recognition like that, it’s eye-opening,” said Buss, who broke six Robert Morris football freshman records and was the only player from his conference to become a national finalist. “But the support I got from back home, from here with my teammates, that [gave] me an extra boost of motivation.”
The business marketing major said his year on the sidelines helped him to be ready for his breakout fall with his team.
“Week after week, it just seemed to get a little bit easier,” Buss said of his season.
That was despite a long list of bumps and bruises that piled up for him during the campaign.
“He really got banged up this year and it’s a tribute to his character and toughness that he didn’t miss any games,” said Banaszak, whose coaching staff often limited Buss in practice to try to keep him ready for game days. “He got knocked around quite a bit and had to take it slow. … Another offseason of lifting and another offseason of conditioning is going to make him an even stronger football player in 2016.”
The national award for which Buss was nominated will be awarded Jan. 8. With the majority of his college career still ahead of him, Banaszak said Buss has the chance to collect many more honors.
“The next three years, there are more awards that are going to come his way,” Banaszak said.
Kyle Buss’ 2015 season, by the numbers:
- 742: Receiving yards
- 160: Most receiving yards in a single game
- 50: Receptions
- 11: Games played
- 2: Receiving touchdowns
- 1: Team rank in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns