Saskatchewan

Regina-born former NFL punter Jon Ryan signs 1-year deal with Riders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have added some local talent to their roster.

Ryan is first person from Saskatchewan to win a Super Bowl

Super Bowl winning punter Jon Ryan, from Regina, takes questions from reporters after signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have added some local talent to their roster who says he's fulfilling a childhood dream after an impressive career south of the border.

Regina-born punter and 2014 Super Bowl champion Jon Ryan has signed with the Riders after spending 12 seasons in the NFL.

The Riders made the announcement on Tuesday morning.

"I think at the end of the day it was just time to come home," Ryan told reporters during a media conference at Mosaic Stadium, surrounded by family members.

"There were other options but in my head, this was really the only one I wanted to do."

Ryan's reasons for coming back to Regina included his family, the new stadium, the coaching staff, General Manager Jeremy O'Day and to live out his childhood dream.

"When I was five, six, seven, eight years old, it was never my dream to play in the NFL. It was always my dream to play for the Riders," he said.

"The way my career went, I have absolutely no complaints. It's been amazing ... But this was the original dream, so I've kind of come back to my dream as a seven-year-old. It's pretty cool."

Ryan says he brings experience

Ryan summed up what he brings to the table for Saskatchewan in one word: Experience.

"I've been there before. I've gone through it. I've been on terrible teams. I've been on great teams, some of the best teams in the last decade in the U.S., and I know what it takes to to win," he said.

Ryan, 37, played for the University of Regina Rams as a kicker and wide receiver, followed by two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

He then went to the NFL where he spent two years with the Green Bay Packers and 10 with the Seattle Seahawks.

He became the first person from Saskatchewan to win a Super Bowl while playing with the Seahawks in 2014. He left the Seahawks as their the all-time leader in punts, gross average punts and net average punts.

Ryan became the first punter throw a touchdown pass in an NFL playoff game during the 2014-15 NFL playoffs, and the first Canadian to do that since 1993.

Not coming home to retire

He was released from the Seahawks in August 2018 after they signed a younger kicker. He then shopped around for work in the NFL, briefly signing with the Buffalo Bills before being released.

"It sucked," he said.

"For a guy that has played football since he was seven years old — played professionally for 15 years — all of a sudden when you're not in it anymore, it's a little bit of a weird feel. You just want to be on that field."

Ryan will get that chance if all goes well in training camp and pre-season. The Riders released punter Josh Bartel the same day Ryan's signing was announced.

Ryan didn't discuss the financial details of his contract with the Riders, but he confirmed it's a one year deal.

However, he said he didn't come to Regina to retire and hopes to be in Saskatchewan for "many years and many Grey Cups."

"It's not a one and done situation," he said, noting he would like to retire as a Roughrider one day, but not yet.

In the meantime, Ryan said he'll need to re-familiarize himself with certain aspects of the CFL compared to the NFL, such as a bigger field and ball, as well as different rules around punting and kick returns.

Home cooking

Barb Ryan, Jon's mother, said having her son come home is a dream come true.

"When he was finished with with NFL it was my obvious choice for him — if he wanted to keep playing — to come back here," she said.

"It was just a perfect ending to a bit of a fairy tale career."

She said the signing feels like Jon's career is coming full circle since he grew up going to Rider games with his dad and brother.

She said they would also go to fan appreciation days where they would wait in line for autographs from players. With Tuesdays announcement, Ryan could be one of those players signing autographs.

"It's pretty cool now that he's one of those guys," she said.

She also said it will be good having him back for Sunday dinners and spending time with his nieces and nephews.

About the Author

Cory Coleman is a reporter, web writer and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. Have a story idea? Email cory.coleman@cbc.ca

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