Trying to scramble for a first down after a low snap, Seahawks punter Jon Ryan launched himself into the frigid Minnesota air, but when struck by a defender, he nose-dived back toward earth like a giant lawn dart.
So many catastrophes could have occurred given the way he landed: Brain trauma and spinal-cord injury among them.
But here was the second thing that went through his head: “(I) worried … that my modeling career was over.”
Seahawks (11-6) at Panthers (15-1), 10:05 a.m., Sunday, Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The first thing that went through his head? His facemask.
Ryan ended up with a broken nose, a shattered septum and a pair of black eyes. It could have been far worse. And his sense of humor was unharmed, since the crack about a modeling career was sarcastic.
Considering he’s marrying comedienne Sarah Colonna in July, Ryan might be expected to have a refined sense of humor.
His comedic chops didn’t impress his teammates on Sunday, though, it was a toughness that would make any linebacker proud.
Despite having a nose that coach Pete Carroll described as “… all over here and all over there,” Ryan not only didn’t miss any of his punting duties, he still held for Steven Hauschka’s placekicks. That job’s importance became very obvious in the game’s final moments.
I don’t think many position players would have played after that. It was quite a fall. He’s as tough as they come, and the team really appreciates what he does.
Kicker Steven Hauschka on Jon Ryan’s faceplant
“I don’t think many guys would have played through that,” Hauschka said of Ryan’s faceplant. “I don’t think many position players would have played after that. It was quite a fall. He’s as tough as they come, and the team really appreciates what he does.”
Ryan being more athletic than many punters should be expected from his achievements growing up in Canada, where he was a sprint champ and played a number of sports. In college, as a receiver with the Regina Rams, he once took a pass for a 109-yard touchdown. (Football fields in Canada are 110 yards long).
And his inclination to leap over things is obvious by his attempt at competing on the show “American Ninja Warrior,” where he negotiated a few of the early obstacles before slipping and landing, yep, on his face.
On Sunday, he might have found an easier path toward the first-down marker than over a defender, but he said an athlete in that instance has to rely on his instincts. This time, it didn’t work.
But Ryan didn’t miss any action. “My vision was a little blurry because my nose was so fat at the time,” Ryan said. “And looking down, my cheeks were all blown up, and there was so much blood that everything was a little blurry for a while.”
Big plays in special teams are crucial in the playoffs. Games tend to be closer, field position more critical, and one play here or there can make the difference in the outcome.
Ryan threw at 19-yard touchdown pass to Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal against Green Bay in the 2015 NFC Championship
In last year’s NFC championship game, the Seahawks were getting spanked 16-0 by Green Bay late in the third quarter when Ryan, as the holder on a fake field goal attempt, rolled out and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Garry Gilliam. It was the first spark of life for the Seahawks in a game they won 28-22 in overtime.
On Sunday, the kicking game determined the Seahawks’ 10-9 win over the Vikings, as Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh missed wide left on a 27-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds.
Ryan said he thought that Walsh was playing better than anybody on either team through most of the game. He was booming kickoffs and made all three of his field goal attempts to account for the Vikings’ 9-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
Hauschka, in particular, felt empathy for Walsh after his miss.
“I’m going to reach out to him some time this week,” Hauschka said. “Every job has its risks, and that’s one that comes with kicking.”
And for Ryan, the risks inherent in his job were as evident as the nose that used to be on middle of his face.
He said he will need surgery after the season, but might even hold off until after his wedding in July.
Until then, the modeling career will just have to wait.