I scoured the internet and racked my brain this week in an attempt to find half a connection between the Packers and the two teams playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX. I knew I didn’t want to revisit the memories I’ve managed to partially repress from the NFC Championship, so I looked for a single player to tie things together. The only one I came up with was Seattle punter Jon Ryan.
Now I know that even Jon Ryan may be a sore subject after his successful, fake field goal a couple of weeks ago (See? I said I didn’t want to talk about it and here we go.), but during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Ryan was the punter for the Green Bay Packers.
Ryan was originally drafted into the Canadian Football League (CFL) from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada (24th overall pick). He played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for two years (2004 & 2005) before joining the Packers. In January of 2006 he signed with Green Bay as only the third Saskatchewan native to make it to the NFL.
During the 2006 season, Ryan averaged 5.25 punts per game (84 total) – a number that feels astronomically high compared to the 1.88 punts per game that current punter Tim Masthay averaged this past season (49 total). The Packers went 8-8 in 2006, which was Mike McCarthy’s first season as head coach. The team had gone an unbelievable 4-12 the year before under Mike Sherman. Woof.
During the 2006 season, Ryan lost his father to cancer, and played in a game only two days after his death. His performance earned him the Ed Block Courage Award – an annual honor given to players who display courage, inspiration and sportsmanship during the season. His Packer teammates had nominated him for the award.
Towards the end of the 2007 season, Ryan booted a 72-yard punt against the Detroit Lions in a 34-13 Packers win. That was punt was long enough to tie Sean Landeta for the second longest punt in Packers history. That same year, Ryan finished the season ranked 12th in the league with a net average of 37.6 yards per punt. This was the best mark in franchise history since 1969. Despite his impressive season, the Packers released Ryan a week before the 2008 regular season kicked off.
So even though he’s Seahawk and was a big part of their improbable comeback against the Packers, feel free to give a slight fist pump when Ryan lands a punt inside the 20 yard line. Sometimes it’s okay to root for former Packers.