One of the most popular Seahawks of the last decade is re-starting his career in the only place that loves him more than Seattle.
Jon Ryan signed this week to resume his punting career with his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
The Seahawks punter from 2008 until last August, spanning 159 games including two Super Bowls and Seattle’s only NFL championship in February 2014, told Vancouver’s TSN 1040 radio in his native Canada Wednesday that signing with the Roughriders in his home city of Regina is “a dream come true.”
The 37-year-old Ryan was a season-ticket holder for Roughriders games in Regina’s historic Taylor Field from 1990 “until the day I got drafted” into the CFL. That was by Winnipeg, in 2004, after he was an all-Canadian college punter and also a flanker with the University of Regina Rams.
He played two CFL seasons for the Blue Bombers. He signed with Green Bay into the NFL in February 2006.
“I was born and raised in Regina. Played all my minor football here. Went to U of R,” Ryan told TSN 1040. “Just growing up as a 7-year-old watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders that was kind of my dream as a 7- or 8-year-old. As time passed and my career progressed, my dreams, my goals kind of changed. But it was kind of nice to have this opportunity to come back to this original dream of playing in the CFL and playing for the Riders again.”
Ryan was the Seahawks’ longest-tenured player until his release last summer. He was signed in 2008 by Mike Holmgren in his final season as Seattle’s coach. He’s behind only Joe Nash (218), Steve Largent (200), Jacob Green (178), Jeff Bryant (175) for playing the most games in Seahawks history.
Then last year the Seahawks drafted uniquely talented punter Michael Dickson in the fifth round in 2018. And they traded up to get the Australian.
Ryan said he knew then his decade-plus with the Seahawks was about to end.
“As a guy who played as long as I had, when they drafted this young phenom, the writing was on the wall,” Ryan said on TSN 1040.
That sign became reality on Aug. 20. He and Seahawks general manager John Schneider mutually agreed on his release, so Ryan could find another NFL team before the 2018 season began.
It was widely reported at the time that Ryan asked for his release from the Seahawks, after they returned home from their preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers in mid-August.
Not exactly, Ryan said Wednesday.
“Contrary to popular belief, I did not ask for my release from Seattle,” he told TSN 1040, “but John and I, we talked about it. We mutually agreed that it would be a good time to part ways.”
Ryan was asked by TSN 1040’s hosts Wednesday what he’s most proud of about his 10 years with the Seahawks.
His answer was not the touchdown pass he famously threw to reserve tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal to spark Seattle’s comeback from being down 16-0 in the second half to Green Bay in the 2014 NFC championship game. Ryan’s pass began the Seahawks rally to win in overtime, sending Seattle to its second consecutive Super Bowl.
“I mean, personally, just talking about myself, probably the highlight of my career in the NFL was being named team captain by my teammates for the last four years,” Ryan said. “I think that meant the most, of anything I achieved, because it came from my teammates. ...
“That really meant a lot to me.”
How beloved is Ryan in and by Seattle?
When the Seahawks made the Ryan move official, they described the best punter they’ve ever had, the multiyear team co-captain, as “a franchise icon.”
How many punters lead their teams to say they are franchise icons?
How many punters do crossfit-style planks to work on his abdominal muscles during practices? Ryan did that, many times, as the Seahawks’ offense and defense scrimmaged.
He said, on camera, upon entering the NFL with the Packers he sought to be “an NFL MVP candidate.” In the Seahawks’ offseason of 2015 the “Ginja Ninja” competed in NBC television’s “American Ninja Warrior” competition.
How many guys who take a veteran’s job call that vet “a legend”? That’s what Dickson called Ryan. That was for all Ryan did in Seattle--and for all Ryan did last spring and summer to help Dickson eventually become a rookie All-Pro last season, doing Ryan’s old job.
“It was hard. I was there for 10 years. I was there for 10, really great years,” Ryan said of Seattle Wednesday.
“I feel more fortunate to have been a part of that than sad that it’s over,” he told Vancouver radio.
“I’m just happy to have this opportunity, being Canadian, to play football more.”
Last August Buffalo signed him less than 24 hours after Seattle released him. But the Bills released him among their final preseason cuts less than two weeks later.
He didn’t punt for anyone last season, focusing on being more with his wife, comedian Sarah Colonna, and owning his Portland Pickles summer-league baseball team for college players home from school.
Ryan has always loved baseball; he played the sport growing up in Canada before giving it up to play lacrosse. When Ryan found out while they were dating that Colonna loved baseball, too, it helped seal their relationship. They married in 2016.
Ryan was asked Wednesday, was it hometown Roughriders or bust? Was he not going to play for any other CFL team this season?
“Not necessarily,” Ryan told TSN 1040.
“I still, at this point, love this game. I love the game so much. I love playing. I probably love it now than I ever have before. I think I would have kept playing, regardless.
“But this is kind of the perfect situation, the perfect opportunity for me. And it worked out just the way I wanted to, so I’m pretty happy.”
Ryan said he had such a great time in Seattle, he can’t answer when someone asks him to name his favorite Seahawks teammate.
“There are like five, 10 guys that come off the top of my head, right away,” he said. “Without even thinking about it.”
Ryan has a unique perspective of being a Canadian who began his career in the CFL, won a Super Bowl at the pinnacle of the NFL, and is now returning to the CFL to bookend his career.
“I had an unbelievable time in the NFL. I had so much fun playing for Seattle. Loved it,” he told TSN 1040. “But you are looking over your shoulder every day. In my 13-year career down there, I was looking over my shoulder, ever day. That’s just the way it is.
“In the CFL, it is a little more camaraderie. Lot of guys are in the same boat, from all over. When I was playing in the CFL in Winnipeg, there were probably 19 guys staying in the same apartment complex. Postgame parties, and a lot of hanging out during the week. There’s a little more camaraderie, because we are all kind of in the same boat. None of us are making millions. It’s just a lot of us are away from our families. There’s a little more of that camaraderie with teammates.”
TSN 1040’s hosts asked, how’s the leg?
“It’s great. I mean, it’s as good as ever,” Ryan said.
“When I was in the CFL. I had a pretty powerful leg. I had a lot of 70-yard punt, 65-yard punts—and I had a lot of 25-yard punts, too.
“I don’t think I have those 70-yard punts left in my leg. But I also don’t have those 25-yard punts left, either, with just getting more experience and getting a little more consistent.
“I think I can still do it. I guess we will all find out come beginning of June here.”