LaSalle, Ontario and Regina, Saskatchewan are now the homes of Super Bowl champions.
Still riding the euphoria of their team’s dominating performance on February 2, Seahawks Luke Willson and Jon Ryan explained to local reporters how they were inspired by support from home.
The Windsor Star’s Jim Parker reported the following after sitting down with Willson:
It was a dream come true for LaSalle’s Luke Willson just to make the NFL this season after being a late-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks last April.
Less than 10 months later, the 24-year-old Willson capped his first professional football season by becoming the area’s first Super Bowl champion.
“That’s kind of cool,” Willson said. “I’m pretty excited to be the first, but I’m looking forward to getting back home. It’s been a long season.”
The six-foot-five, 251-pound tight end had a pair of catches that set up two touchdowns Sunday in Seattle’s 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in,” said Willson, who is a Villanova high school product and Essex Ravens product.
“I’m just extremely blessed to be part of this team. I’m on the best football team in the world and it’s a pretty neat feeling.”
Willson had parents Mike and Wilma on the field after the game to share in the celebration and good friend Mario Duri threw him a Canadian flag, which he draped over his shoulders on the field.
“I think the coolest part for me was being able to share this with my friends and family and to have my mom and dad on the field afterwards,” said Willson, who had more than 100 messages on his phone two hours after the game.
“They’re pretty much the reason I was able to do this today. I’ll cherish it the rest of my life.”
A solid baseball prospect, many people questioned Willson’s decision to pass on playing for the Toronto Blue Jays to pursue roster spot in the NFL.
“It’s pretty emotional to think like that,” Willson said. “You run into a lot of speed bumps and things like that. “I had people who may have thought I could not make it. Here now and having had to grind through it, it’s a pretty emotional moment.”
Willson did not have a catch in Seattle’s first two playoff games, but pulled in a five-yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson in the first quarter that eventually set up Marshawn Lynch for a touchdown that put the Seahawks up 15-0.
“That was my first (catch) in the playoffs,” Willson said. “It’s one of those plays where I felt I was going to get one beforehand and I was just glad to have my number called.”
Willson dropped another pass in the third quarter, but Wilson called his number again on the next play and he pulled in a 12-yard pass for a first down that set up a Jermaine Kearse touchdown to put the Seahawks up 36-0.
“I would have liked to have gone three-for-three, but I was able to make another one late,” Willson said.
Seattle’s 35-point victory was the biggest Super Bowl blowout since Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 when Dallas beat Buffalo 52-17.
“I was sitting down with my dad last night and thought we’d win it pretty easily,” Willson said. “Maybe not by that much, but I thought we were more physical and I thought we matched up well. We came out and outplayed them in all aspects.”
Regina News talk 980’s Aaron Stuckel captured the mood as Seahawks punter Jon Ryan returned home following the biggest game of his career:
Saskatchewan’s Super Bowl hero is back at home.
It was a warm welcome as the Seattle Seahawks’ punter Jon Ryan took the escalator down from the arrival gate at the Regina International Airport. He was flying in from Seattle where he’s spent a week celebrating with the 12th Man, the cities die-hard football fans.
But Ryan said it was important for him to come back home.
“That was the first thing on the agenda was to get back to Regina and just be able to share this victory and celebrationg with some people here,” he said, adding he won’t get a day with the Lombardi Trophy. It will stay on display in Seattle.
“I’ve gotten so much from this city and I couldn’t possibly repay everything I’ve taken from it.”
On hand for Ryan’s return was his sister Erica Honoway, whose four kids gave their uncle a big hug as he arrived.
“Today I’m just excited to see my little brother. I’m not even thinking about the Super Bowl or anything else,” she said.
Honoway was in New York the week leading up to the game. Though her brother didn’t see much action (a lone punt in the second half) he was one the field as a holder for field goals.
“The first time he went to hold a ball for a field goal, I said, ‘Our brother just played in the Super Bowl.’ It’s one thing to be standing there but he was just involved in a play in the Super Bowl,” she said, beaming.
Ryan said his lone kick was a bit more nerve-wracking than the hundreds he’s done in the past.
“There was a little bit more adrenaline than I’m used to. As a punter or kicker, you don’t really want that adrenaline. You want to be a little bit more relaxed,” he said.
Being Saskatchewan’s only Super Bowl winner isn’t something that has quite sunk in yet for Ryan. But he says he’ll be spending a short time here visiting with friends and family, sharing his victory with everyone he can.