‘Father Time finally got me’: former NFL, Riders punter Jon Ryan confirms retirement following Elks’ season finale

Photo: Paul Swanson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Canadian punter Jon Ryan has played his last game of professional football.

The 40-year-old kicking icon confirmed the rumours of his retirement following the Edmonton Elks’ season-ending loss to the B.C. Lions on Friday night during an interview with the 630 CHED post-game show.

“I mean, you’ve got to hang them up eventually,” Ryan said. “I tried to drag this out forever but Father Time finally got me after 19 years.”

A product of the University of Regina, Ryan began his professional career in 2004 after being drafted in the third round of that year’s CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He spent two years in the Manitoba capital, earning CFL all-star honours in his second campaign, before signing with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers with whom he spent two seasons.

Ryan is best remembered for his time with the Seattle Seahawks, serving as the team’s primary punter from 2008 until 2017. He would play a pivotal role in the team’s rise to NFL dominance, winning a Super Bowl in 2013 and helping them return to the big game the following year. His most memorable play came in those 2014 playoffs, when Ryan threw a touchdown pass off a fake field goal in the third quarter of the NFC Championship to spark a Seahawks’ comeback. He became the first punter to ever throw a touchdown in an NFL playoff game and the first Canadian to do so since Mark Rypien in 1993.

After a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills, Ryan returned to CFL in 2019 with his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders. He played two seasons for his childhood team interrupted only by the pandemic, earning West Division all-star status in his first year. He suffered a serious foot injury toward the end of the 2021 season and was unceremoniously left to walk in free agency.

Ryan would briefly join the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2022, before being traded to Edmonton to finish his final season.

“Right now I look back and it seems like all a dream, to be honest with you. 19 years went bye-bye in the snap of a finger, really,” an emotional Ryan admitted.

“Obviously looking back at those 10 years in Seattle and all those playoff teams and the Super Bowls and all that, that’s one of the better memories of playing pro football. But I’ll always love the CFL. If not for the CFL, I would never have gotten to the NFL and the reason I came back to CFL after all that is I love it so much. I always say the CFL is the greatest sport in the world and I’m honoured to have played it.”

Ryan played in 74 career CFL games and 191 in the NFL. He retires with a career average of 44.7 yards per kick south of the border and 46.8 in Canada while adding 38 point singles.

In eleven games for the Elks in 2022, he punted 62 times for an average of 43.2 yards. Retirement had been on the veteran’s mind for some time and he remains extremely grateful to Edmonton for allowing him to finish his career on his own terms.

“It’s something that’s been at the back of my mind all season really. Even last offseason, I didn’t know if I’d come back,” Ryan shared. “Thank God [Elks’ head coach] Chris Jones came out and got me. It just means the world to me that he saw something in me and thought that I still had it and brought me in here to kind of finish my career out. I’ll be forever indebted to him.”

Visibly choked up on the television broadcast, Ryan was able to step away from the game in the way he wanted with more than 30 friends and family in attendance. Family members watched the game from a suite, while members of the 1999 Sheldon-Williams Collegiate high school football team filled the Commonwealth Stadium stands to celebrate their former teammate with whom they won a Saskatchewan provincial championship.