JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The 12th-man flag is flying all over the state of Washington this week, but it might surprise you to learn it’s also flying over City Hall in Regina, Saskatchewan.
That happens to be the hometown of Jon Ryan, and his Canadian friends and family are mighty proud of the Seahawks' punter.
“Yeah, it’s been pretty cool,” Ryan said. “I’ve got a lot of support from family back home. I’ve got 15 family and friends coming out to be here for the game. Everyone back home is pretty excited. Everyone has really gotten behind me. It means a lot to me.
‘‘My family has been telling me they are the most famous people in town this week. They’re even doing interviews and radio shows. They did [TV news show] 'Canada AM' this morning. They are all pretty pumped about it. The city and the province have been so behind me through all of this. I could have never imagined that type of support.”
Few people know that Ryan was a talented wide receiver in college at the University of Regina. He caught a 109-yard TD pass (fields in Canada are 110 yards) as a sophomore.
“I was actually drafted [in the Canadian Football League] as a kicker/wide receiver,” he said. “But I knew my path would be a punter. That’s what I’ve always kind of excelled at, and that was really my No. 1 love when it came to football. It was punting. It might not be as glamorous as the wide receiver position, but it worked out for me.”
Ryan played two years in the CFL for Winnipeg before signing with Green Bay in 2006, his first NFL season. He signed with Seattle in 2008.
“My goal was always to make the NFL,” Ryan said. “But it kind of seemed like a pipe dream until that second season in the CFL, when I made a lot of improvements to my game. I started kind of piling up some good stats."
At age 32, Ryan is the second-oldest player on the Seahawks, one month younger than defensive end Chris Clemons, but Ryan is at the top of his game.
Of his 82 punts this season, including the playoffs, only 22 have been returned, for a total of 82 yards. So opponents average only 1 yard gained every time Ryan punts, an astonishing number.
Ryan gets great hang time on his kicks, but he also credits his teammates on punt coverage.
“Our gunners, [Byron] Maxwell, [Ricardo] Lockette and Jeremy Lane, they’ve done a great job of forcing a lot of fair catches,’’ Ryan said. “Those guys are just some of the best in the game at what they do. It makes it a lot easier for me to punt the ball and know they are going to be down there making those tackles.”