Kieran Koltun

Kieran Koltun is accustomed to the Okanagan sunshine beating down on him during football practice for the Kelowna Owls. But the 17-year-old wide receiver is headed into a whole new level of heat as a scholarship athlete for Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

He’s not worried.

“The facilities are amazing, I have already built connections with the coaches, as well as strong connections with some of the recruits going there,” he said. “The campus is perfect for me, and of course I love the heat.”

And, of course, the “heat” will come in a couple of different forms. The actual heat comes with average highs of 35, 36 and 37 C in the summer months, and nearly that high during football season. Then there is the pressure of playing at the college level in America’s football heartland.

Again, Koltun is embracing the challenges.

“I’ve been playing football since I had the ability to hold one,” he said, “and I am blessed to receive a scholarship to play a sport that I have loved my whole life, all the while pursuing a degree. If I had listened to any of the doubters, I wouldn’t have this opportunity. Some people didn’t want to see me succeed, but I stayed determined and embraced the grind, and had a handful of great people in my life help get me here.”

The TWU Rams play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and are coming off a 3-7 season.

There are 17 wide receivers on the roster, and 10 of those are freshmen. It will mean a competitive field for Koltun to navigate.

His coach is confident Koltun has what it takes to break through.

“I am so excited for Kieran,” KSS head coach Chris Cartwright said. “He is a great example of how great things happen when you focus on things you can control. … People underestimate him because he is five-six and 175 pounds, but if you watch his film, he stood out and did things that gave his team opportunities to succeed.”

Off the field — and alongside that 4.0 grade average — Koltun has a good head on his shoulders, the coach said.

It’s part of the reason Koltun managed to secure a spot down south when the pandemic sacked the high school season.

“He is also a leader off the field, inspiring other young football players to control what they can control,” said Cartwright. “Kieran understands that developing as a student athlete is a process. He trusted the process the last four years at KSS. Kieran knows to take the opportunities that are given to him and to make the most out of them.”

His academic goals include studying Exercise Science and Kinesiology.

On the field, he has more general goals.

“(I want to) help my team win and make my brothers around me better,” he said. “I would like to get bigger, faster, and stronger, all the while becoming a better individual off the field as well.”

He takes inspiration from NFL all-pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey of the L.A. Rams and wide receiver Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings.

Diggs has provided Koltun with a road map — quite literally — to success at the wide receiver position.

“His route running is a work of art,” Koltun said. “I watch his highlights all the time. He has also taught me that if you look good, you perform better; he is always walking that walk. On and off the field, he is a great performer.”