Ramczyk continues to rise in NFL
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Entering his third season in the NFL, Ryan Ramczyk has emerged as one of the top offensive linemen in the league.
The Stevens Point native and New Orleans Saints offensive tackle was voted Second Team All-Pro last season at right tackle, as the Saints came up just short of a trip to Super Bowl, and last week he was ranked 45th on Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) list of the Top 50 players in the NFL heading into this season.
Ramczyk was back home last weekend after taking part in Saints minicamp June 11-13, and will hold the inaugural Ryan Ramczyk Lineman Camp for area football players in Stevens Point Thursday, June 27.
“Obviously you love all of the recognition, but as offensive linemen, we don’t really pride ourselves on that at all,” said Ramczyk. “For me, it’s really about the team and getting out there with the guys, and going as far as we can go as a team.”
“It’s been an exciting journey,” said Randy Ramczyk, Ryan’s father. “From kindergarten playing flag football, to tackle football in (Stevens Point) Youth Area in third grade, and all the way up through high school, and then college at UWSP and Madison, and going into the NFL.
“Every moment has just been very, very enjoyable, exciting, adventurous,” he said. “And just an incredible journey.”
Ramczyk has continued to ascend since his playing days at Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH), where he started at center as a junior on the Panthers’ 2010 WIAA Division 1 State Runner-up team, and was a 6-4, 245-pound offensive tackle as a senior when he bypassed an offer to play football at the NCAA Division 1 University of Pittsburgh to stay closer to home and play at NCAA Division II Winona State University (Minn.).
“After his senior season in high school, we had the underclassmen doing training during the off-season workouts, and Ryan literally asked, ‘could I do these workouts?,’” said SPASH football head coach Pete McAdams. “And so the second semester of his senior year, Ryan was training with his high school coaches yet, he was never too big for that, all he wanted to do was be coached and work his tail off.
“And since that spring of 2012, he still is the only graduating senior, who during his second semester of his senior year, was willing to put in that extra work with coaches and with underclassmen to make himself better and more prepared for when he went on to play in college, ” he said. “That just says a ton about the humility and his work ethic, this guy was willing to do whatever it took, and if you don’t have a work ethic, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, it’s not going to take you very far. And Ryan has always had an incredible work ethic.”
Ramczyk ultimately left Winona State before he played as a freshman and returned home to Stevens Point and took a year off from football, before he came back and played for the NCAA Division III University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) football team for two seasons.
He then decided to walk on for the NCAA Division 1 University of Wisconsin football team, where he earned a starting job as a redshirt junior and went on to be a Consensus First Team All-American, and named the top run-blocking tackle in the nation by PFF.
A projected early round pick, Ramczyk bypassed his senior year at Wisconsin and declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, where he was selected in the first round by New Orleans with the 32nd overall pick.
He went on to start all 16 games as a rookie and was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team for the Saints, who went 11-5 during the regular season, before a last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
“I was a bit nervous that first game, but he played pretty well throughout the whole season,” said Randy Ramczyk of his son’s rookie season. “Once we saw him for a few games playing, the nerves calmed down a little bit, you kind of got used to it.
“But every game, you get fired up for it, you’re excited,” he said. “You just hope that he stays healthy and plays well, that’s the main thing.”
In Ramcyzk’s second year in the NFL last season, the Saints finished 13-3 during the regular season to earn the top seed in the NFC Playoffs and went on to advance to the NFC Championship Game, where they were one win away from the Super Bowl.
The Saints were tied 20-20 with the Los Angeles Rams with 1:48 to go, when a penalty was not called on the Rams on a clear pass interference on third down that would’ve allowed New Orleans to run out the rest of the clock before kicking a potential game-winning field goal, as the Saints were forced to kick a 31-yard field goal with 1:41 remaining to take a 23-20 lead.
That allowed the Rams enough time to kick a 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to send the game into overtime, where Los Angeles kicked a 57-yard field goal to win 26-23 and advance to the Super Bowl and end New Orleans’ run.
“It was such an exciting season last year,” said Ramczyk. “We got on a roll and we got that first-round bye and were rolling there, but it was a tough ending obviously.
“It hurt for a while, but it’s something we have to move on from, and we’re ready for this new year,” he said. “We’re ready to get back at it.”
Along the way last season, the 6-6, 314-pound Ramczyk was voted Second Team All-Pro at right tackle by the Associated Press and PFF, while he was named PFF’s 2018 Run Blocker of the Year.
“Last year slowed down a lot for me, as far as the mental aspect of the game,” said Ramczyk. “So to be able to kind of settle in and be like, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got to do, I know what I have to do every single play, there’s no questions in my mind going on when I get up to the line of scrimmage.’
“That helped me out a lot last year, and then going into this year, there was a couple of things I was working on in the off-season to try to get better at,” he said. “To keep improving and keep working on that come camp.”
Going into last season, Ramczyk was part of the 10 NFL players who just missed PFF’s list of its 2018 Top 101 players.
Last week, when PFF released its Top 50 NFL players heading into 2019 season June 13, Ramczyk was ranked as the 45th best player in the NFL, as it said, “New Orleans’ brass has seemingly hit a home run with 2017 first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk, as the former Wisconsin product has been nothing but outstanding in his two years in the NFL.”
“I always tell him, ‘play every play like it’s the last play of the Super Bowl, for the win,’” said Randy Ramczyk. “Every play.
“Fortunately he’s been very successful, and he just needs to continue to learn and develop and grow, and it’s never ending,” he said. “You can always learn from every game as you keep advancing through your career. The learning never ends.”
The PFF50 put Ramczyk fifth among offensive lineman in the NFL, while he was also one of five Saints on the list, along with running back Alvin Kamara (36th), defensive end Cameron Jordan (16th), wide receiver Michael Thomas (12th) and quarterback Drew Brees (fifth), as New Orleans is expected to again contend for the Super Bowl this season.
“There’s a lot of talent on our roster, and the sky’s really the limit for us,” said Ramczyk. “We’re excited to get out there and show who we are and what we can be.
“So it’ll be a fun season,” he said.
After coming up playing Stevens Point Youth Area Football and for the Ben Franklin Junior High School football team before his days at SPASH, Ramczyk will get a chance to work with football players from his hometown, when he holds his lineman camp June 27, which is open to incoming grades 3 through 12, and 2019 high school graduates.
“When I was growing up I went to a couple of football camps with ex-NFL players, and I remember what that was like for me,” said Ramczyk. “So to be able to be in my position and give back, and hopefully have an impact on these kids, it’s special.”
The Saints are due to report for training camp in July, with the first preseason game Aug. 9, and the regular season opener against the Houston Texans Sept. 9.
Randy Ramczyk said that he records every one of his son’s games and usually watches them two or three times, and that he and his wife Lori go to seven or eight games a year, while his bucket list is to visit every stadium.
As Ramczyk is set to enter his third season in the league, his father and former high school coach have enjoyed being able to watch him grow over the years, and succeed at such a high level in the NFL.
“It’s indescribable,” said Randy Ramczyk. “Every week goes by, and during football season we try to get to as many games as we can, but to turn on the TV and watch your own son playing in front of a national audience against teams and players that are big, blocking for a Hall of Fame quarterback like Drew Brees, it’s surreal.
“The whole family, everybody’s very, very proud of him,” he said. “It’s just been an exciting journey.”
“We have that picture up (in the SPASH weight room) with his measurements when he was in high school for a reason, because a lot of kids think, to do what Ryan is doing is a far-fetched goal and not even worth dreaming of,” said McAdams. “Ryan’s always had that dream, and when Ryan was younger, he wasn’t 6-6, 314 pounds like he is right now either, so that’s intentionally in our weight room for a reason, to make sure kids understand that, ‘dreams can come true.’
“And I think the message that Ryan’s going to reiterate to all of these young kids that attend this camp is going to be to set your dreams high, and do everything you can work-wise to attain them, but don’t set them too low,” he said. “If you want something and you dream about it and you are willing to work hard for it, anything is possible.”