Ramczyk ready to build off rookie season
By John Kemmeter
After being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft last April, Stevens Point native Ryan Ramczyk emerged as one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL in his rookie season.
The former Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) standout started every game for the New Orleans Saints, who won the NFC South Division before they were knocked out of the postseason with a last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“I was fortunate enough to stay healthy all year and play all of the snaps all year, and finish the year off on a pretty good note,” said Ramczyk, who was at the grand-opening celebration at Next Home Priority in Stevens Point Saturday, March 3. “I wish we could’ve went a little bit further there at the end, but overall I think we had a solid season.”
Ramczyk played for two seasons at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) before he transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where he was a Consensus First Team All-American in his only season, before he was selected by the Saints with the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
He was expected to spend his rookie season behind veteran starting tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief, but moved into the lineup at left tackle when Armstead underwent off-season shoulder surgery, and made his NFL debut close to home, when he started in a 29-19 to the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis on Monday Night Football in Week 1 Sept. 11.
“First start at left tackle at Minnesota, nerves were going like crazy,” said Ramczyk. “But I think I held my own there and played a pretty decent game, and I kind of got the realization of, ‘all right, I can do this now, I’m going back to playing football.’
“So that was a good confidence booster for me, and then I continued building on that throughout the year,” he said.
During the Saints’ 20-0 win in Week 4 over the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in England Oct. 1, Strief suffered a season-ending injury and Ramczyk was shifted to right tackle, where he remained for the rest of the season.
Later that month, Ramczyk got a chance to play at the stadium where he watched NFL games growing up, as the Saints beat the Green Bay Packers 26-17 at Lambeau Field Oct. 22.
“It’s pretty surreal going there,” said Ramczyk. “When I was at Wisconsin we played LSU there, and that was obviously an awesome experience.
“But to play there against the Packers, that’s who I’ve grown up watching my entire life, that was such a cool experience to be in that environment and to come out with the win,” he said.
Ramczyk went on to play every snap for New Orleans this season and was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team, as he paved the way for Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to become the first running backs from the same team to make the Pro Bowl in the same season in 42 years, as the Saints ranked second in NFL in yards per game (391.2) and fourth in scoring (28 points per game).
Ramczyk allowed only two sacks and 24 pressures in 16 games during the regular season and finished as the eighth-ranked offensive tackle in the NFL this season by Pro Football Focus (PFF), which also included him on its list of Top 10 players to not make the PFF Top 101, its annual ranking of the top players in the NFL for the just-completed season.
“It’s a tough transition, no doubt,” said Ramczyk of going from college to the NFL. “The strength and the speed of the guys is obviously even (greater), and then you’re dealing with veteran players who are so good at what they do.
“But I had awesome mentoring by players that were on the Saints,” he said, “Great players, great coaches, and I had great support staff around me to help me succeed.”
New Orleans went on to win the NFC South with an 11-5 record to advance to the NFL Playoffs, where they won 31-26 over the Carolina Panthers in a NFC Wild Card Game Jan. 7.
That sent the Saints to Minneapolis for the NFC Division Playoffs against the Vikings, where they rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 24-23 lead on a 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds left, before Minnesota scored on a 61-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game to win 29-24 and end New Orleans’ season.
“That was a tough game,” said Ramczyk. “We drove down and I thought we had it in the book.
“And unfortunately it didn’t end the way we wanted to on that crazy play at the end,” he said.
Ramczyk came back to Stevens Point after the season and said it was nice to be able to relax and spend time with friends and family, including his parents Randy and Lori, who traveled to Saints games throughout their son’s rookie season, as they did during his high school and college career.
“It’s special to be able to have them be so into what I love to do, and always be there for me and support me,” said Ramczyk. “And to watch them and see the joy on their faces after the games.”
Ramczyk was scheduled to fly out to California Sunday, March 4, to continue training and lifting weights, while he will go back to New Orleans in mid-April, as he looks to build off his rookie year.
“It’s a fantastic experience so far, and really a dream come true,” said Ramczyk. “But at the same time, I still want to accomplish more, I still want to keep pushing and going on.
“But I think my first year in the NFL went very well,” he said. “And I’m really looking forward to this coming year.”