PHOENIX **– On the bus ride back from Media Day, Jon Ryan glanced out the window and got a startling reminder of how he is one of those overnight success stories that has been years in the making.
"Coming back from media day today we drove by the Studio 6 motel I used to live in," the Seahawks' record-setting punter tweeted on Tuesday. "I'll never take a single day in this league for granted."
Thousands poured into downtown Phoenix Tuesday, for Super Bowl 49 Media Day featuring interviews with the Seattle Seahawks.
Wednesday, Ryan shared the story behind the tweet.
"It's only a few blocks from here," Ryan said during the Seahawks' media session at the resort where the team is staying – which is a stone's throw from that Studio 6 Motel, but light years from where Ryan's career has taken him.
Ryan's time there followed his two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 2004 and 2005. The Canadian-born punter was determined to make it to the NFL – and make it in the NFL – regardless of what it took.
"When I was trying to make it to the NFL, I lived in my sister's house, my other sister's basement, my brother's basement, my mom's spare room," he said. "It was just all trying to do whatever I could to get better and try to make it."
And that included escaping Regina, Sask., in the winter, when the tundra isn't just frozen but windswept.
"I came down here after my last game in the CFL," Ryan said. "I obviously didn't have much money and lived in that motel and worked out at a nearby field. I just needed somewhere where it was warm in January, February and March and I could kick. You can't do that in Canada in the prairies in January, February and March.
"So I just packed up my car and came here. The plan was, no matter what it took, I was going to do it. That was my goal and I kind of had this me-versus-the-world attitude – no one's going to stop me no matter what it took."
And how did that work out? As Ryan was telling his story, he was wearing a Seahawks-blue No. 9 jersey with his special teams captain patch on the right side and a Super Bowl XLIX logo on the left side.
Ryan got his first NFL opportunity in 2006 with the Green Bay Packers. When he was released in 2008, the Seahawks signed him. And he's still here, three coaches later. In fact, Ryan and center Max Unger are the only two players on the 53-man Super Bowl roster that are left from the team coach Pete Carroll inherited in 2010.
Ryan hasn't just seized the opportunity; he has rewritten the punting section of the franchise record book. Highest season average? Ryan holds the top three spots. Highest season net average? Ryan again, in the top three spots. Career punts inside the 20-yard line? It's Ryan again. Longest punt? Who else?
This season, he also threw a touchdown pass to rookie tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal for the Seahawks' first touchdown in the NFC Championship game against his former team and ran for a first down on another fake field goal in a "Monday Night Football" game against the Washington Redskins in Week 5.
Now, he's preparing to punt in his second consecutive Super Bowl on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
"This week is kind of a pinch-myself moment," he said. "But any game I get to play in the NFL, I never take it for granted. Because where I come from there's a lot guys that would trade places with me in a heartbeat.
"I played with thousands of guys in Regina, where there's a strong minor football organization. Tons of kids play, and I'm fortunate enough to be the only kid to come out of there to make it to the NFL. So I'll never forget that, and never forget where I came from."
And that includes that motel just a few blocks from the resort where Ryan and his teammates are staying in this Super Bowl week.