Clutch Canadians

Ontario’s Luke Willson and Saskatchewan’s Jon Ryan played starring roles in Seattle’s NFC Championship victory.

Ryan, a Regina native, has provided the Seahawks with reliable special teams play (as punter and place holder) for the past six seasons.

Yet perhaps his greatest contribution as a Seahawk came during the 2015 NFC division game against the Green Bay Packers.

With his team trailing 16-0 in the third quarter Ryan lined up to hold the ball for what would have been a 36-yard field goal try from kicker Steven Hauschka. Instead, Ryan kept the snap as Hauschka completed the fake by followed through with his leg. Ryan then raced to his left. When Packers defender A.J. Hawk collapsed on him in the flat, the former University of Regina Ram lobbed a ball to Garry Gilliam – an offensive tackle – who was left all alone in the end zone.

It was the first postseason touchdown tossed by a punter since the NFL started keeping track of the statistic in 1966.

“We just saw a consistent look that they did where they brought rushers hard off the edge and we thought we’d take advantage of it,” Ryan told writer and producer Tony Drovetto. “It was brought from the sideline and as long as we had the look on the field that we wanted to go with, we would stick with it, and that’s what happened.”

Ryan told Drovetto he hoped to receive a chance to run the play, noting the last time he threw a pass for a score came more than a decade ago during his time at the University of Regina. He lobbied for the call all week to his head coach and special teams coordinator.

“I didn’t get within five feet of Pete [Carroll] or Brian [Schneider] without mentioning it to them that we should run it,” Ryan told Drovetto. “So it was obviously open.”

According to Drovetto it was Carroll’s confidence in his punter that set the pivotal play in motion.

“I really believed in this fake,” Carroll told Drovetto. “I thought we had a great shot at it because I believe in Jon Ryan’s ability to come out of there exploding like he did, and really it was the first opportunity we had.”

“I couldn’t wait to get the thing called.”

Drovetto’s full description of the play is available here

Lasalle Ontario’s Luke Willson also provided a clutch play for the Seahawks in the team’s 28-22 overtime win.

After opening up a 20-19 lead with just over a minute to play, Seattle went for a two-point conversion.

After scrambling to let his receivers get open Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson hooked up with Willson in front of Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The conversion proved to be a critical play, as Green Bay then tied the score 22-22 on a Mason Crosby field goal with 14 seconds left.

Willson is a former Ontario Varsity Football League Essex Raven.

“Sure, it can be provincial thinking to celebrate every time a Canadian does something in a big game. And often they have been just bit players in the bigger game,” wrote the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley after the game. “But each of the plays . . . . dramatic in their own right, were crucial to the outcome and each will be shown in the highlights of this instant classic for years to come.”