Even though training camp can be a grind, Saskatchewan Roughriders punter Jon Ryan embraced every second of it.
“There’s definitely more yesterdays than tomorrows in my career, that’s for sure,” said the 39-year-old Ryan. “Having more fun this year than I’ve ever had before and that’s part of it, just knowing there’s not too many of these left.”
The Regina product is entering his second season with his hometown Riders, which will be the 18th professional football season of his career. After playing for the University of Regina Rams, Ryan broke into the CFL in 2004 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he also played in 2005.
Then in 2006, the NFL took notice, and he was signed by the Green Bay Packers, where he spent the next two seasons. He then played the next 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, winning a Super Bowl in 2004. He was let go by the Seahawks and attended training camp with the Buffalo Bills in 2019, but didn’t stick on the roster, which led to him coming back to the CFL.
And while Ryan has been known for being a tough and durable punter throughout his career, he insists he’s in the best shape of his life right now, having spent the last 20 months training in Los Angeles, where he lives during the off-season.
“I was training my butt off,” said Ryan. “I saw it as an opportunity. I had a year and a half to get ready for a season and I worked hard.”
And head coach Craig Dickenson, who doubles as the special teams co-ordinator, has to agree.
“I heard some guys in the locker room saying, ‘Are you sure you’re 39?’” said Dickenson. “He looks ripped.
“That California living has been good to Jon. He’s looking lean and mean.”
In 2019, Ryan set a Roughriders single-season franchise record, averaging 48.8 yards per punt, which was also good enough to earn him CFL West Division all-star honours. And as long as he continues to punt the ball like he can, while having fun doing it, there’s no telling how many more seasons he will play.
“Certainly no one better out there right now as far as punting the football,” said Dickenson. “If he keeps himself in shape and he keeps himself motivated, then I could see him playing for a few more years that’s for sure.”
“At this point, you play it one at a time,” said Ryan. “When the fun stops, then I’ll be done. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to play in the NFL for as long as I did that I’m out here for the love of the game because I love playing with these guys, I love this province and being able to play for the team I grew up cheering for, that just means the world to me.
“That’s the reason I’m here and when that’s no longer fun, then it’s going to be over.”