'It’s been a dream my whole life': Jon Ryan excited ahead of Canada Day return to Sask.
Regina born, Super Bowl winning punter Jon Ryan sat down with CTV’s Claire Hanna ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders home opener, to chat about his return to Saskatchewan.
Ryan grew up in Regina and played football at Sheldon Williams Collegiate and the University of Regina. His football career continued in the NFL for 12 years, suiting up for the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. Ryan became the first person from Saskatchewan to win a Super Bowl, beating the Denver Broncos in 2014 with the Seahawks. Ryan signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before the 2019 season.
CTV: When you signed back here you talked about how it was a dream, what are your emotions as you prepare for this first home game?
Ryan: I’m pretty excited, as you said It’s been a dream my whole life, growing up in Regina, going to Rider games since birth basically. I had season tickets from 1990 until the day I was drafted in 2004. This team’s always meant a lot to me it’s always been in my blood. My career kind of went in a different direction, now I came back to the original dream. Being able to step on that field tomorrow, first home game in the green and white and also being on Canada Day as a proud Canadian it means a lot to me.
CTV: I think in Regina you represent a lot, you’re this kid who worked hard, you went to high school here, grew up here, you did what a lot of people here would have dreamed of doing. When you walk around town do you sense that you represent something more to this community?
Ryan: I think maybe. I think I’ve always taken so much pride in being from Regina, and being from Saskatchewan, and being Canadian. I feel like people in Regina take a lot of pride in those three things as well. There are a lot of people that would have loved to have been in my spot for the last 15 years, and that’s why I’ve never taken a single day of this adventure for granted. I know that any of those people would trade spots with me in a heartbeat to be able to run out of the tunnel and Lambeau Field, or play in a Super Bowl, or step onto the Mosaic field on Canada Day. So I’ve never taken any of that for granted and I feel like I’m playing for them.
CTV: Do you feel more pressure competing here tomorrow?
Ryan: I do feel a little bit of pressure. I feel like I am representing not only this team but the people of this province, the people of this city, and I do feel a little bit of added pressure. At the same time, in my life the most comfortable place on earth for me is between those lines, so usually all the nerves go away once you step foot on that field.
CTV: Coach Dickenson was a kicker, which is I’m sure so rare to have in a head coach. How is your relationship with him different from other teams that didn’t have that connection?
Ryan: It’s a unique situation to have a head coach that is a former kicker, he played at Montana, and he understands a little more what I’m going through and what the kickers and specialists are going through. As well it’s nice to have a coach that puts that much emphasis on special teams. So many times in the CFL or NFL if they need to cut time during a day, the first thing to go is special teams, they cut down those meetings. I think today Coach Dickenson went 15 minutes over on the special teams meeting, and he just said to the guys as they left ‘if any of the other coaches ask, just tell them I’m the head coach, so this is how it’s going to be,’ and as a special teams guy you really appreciate that.
CTV: Everybody says you have the most ridiculous leg, that’s something you can’t coach, but I’m not sure what happened last game, some people thought it was out kicking the coverage, some people thought people need to just sprint down there. How challenging has it been adapting to the Canadian game?
Ryan: It’s been a little different. In the NFL less than half the punts are returned. In the CFL 99 per cent of them are returned so it’s more of a team approach in the CFL because all 12 guys need to be on the same page all the time. This game here is a little bit different. I think everyone wants to hit that hot button that says ‘outkick your coverage,’ and I don’t totally agree with that. I think I have to do some things to help those guys out and it can go both ways, but I think as we get more accustomed to each other and we get more accustomed to the style of punting I have we’re going to definitely improve and get better.
CTV: You talk about constantly improving, what were you working on in practice this week after game two?
Ryan: We’re facing a very good returner this week in Chris Rainey, I have a lot of respect for the guy. We always say you can’t let him set his feet, you’ve got to make him move around a little bit and make him uncomfortable back there and that’s what we hope to do.
CTV: How special is this Canada Day going to be?
Ryan: This one is pretty special. I haven’t been around very much in the last 12 or 13 years for Canada Day. Obviously it’s going to be special to be able to step on that field representing Saskatchewan on Canada Day.
This interview has been edited for clarity