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Ryan Stonehouse on his record-breaking rookie season, proving doubters wrong

Justin Michael Avatar
January 13, 2023

Ryan Stonehouse put the league on notice this season. 

The undrafted punter out of Colorado State not only went into Nashville and beat out one of the NFL’s most respected specialists for the starting job, he made the Tennessee Titans look smart for choosing the rookie by shattering Sammy Baugh’s 82 year-old record for gross punting average in a season.

Having stood since 1940, Baugh’s previous high mark of 51.40 yards per punt was one of the league’s five oldest records. Many had come close to topping it over the years, but considering that punters must average 2.5 punts per team game played in order to qualify, the more games that got added to the schedule over time, the harder it became to keep the necessary pace to top Baugh’s record.

That’s what makes Stonehouse’s season so significant — his historic average of 53.10 yards over 90 total punts was nearly three times the volume of Baugh’s 1940 season (35 punts). Not to mention it occurred in a season that is roughly 65 percent longer, as the NFL now plays a 17 game schedule. 

In order to break this record, Stonehouse obviously had to be a weapon in the field position game and use his booming leg to obliterate balls deep down the field. But he also had to be the definition of consistency. One poor stretch could have ultimately cost him the chance to make history. Just like he did during his collegiate career though, when he set the NCAA’s all-time record for punting average, Stonehouse was a weapon for the Titans week in and week out. As a result of his consistency, his jersey and cleats from this season are now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

In an interview with DNVR Rams on Thursday afternoon, Stonehouse admitted that the entire ordeal has been a surreal and unexpected experience for him. He said that while it is most certainly an honor to make NFL history, it was not something that he had his sights set on in Year 1 of his professional career. 

“I think some of the best accolades that you get are sometimes the most unexpected ones, and this is one of them,” Stonehouse said. “I hope that I can keep breaking the record, you know, that’s my hope.”

Ryan Stonehouse punts the ball during CSU’s pro day at Canvas Stadium on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

In addition to setting the NFL’s overall record for gross punting average, Stonehouse’s net punting average of 44.03 yards is the best ever recorded by a rookie. He talked about being proud of this achievement, especially after so many people doubted whether his game would translate to the NFL.

“That’s kind of what I was shooting for, to be successful, and to prove to people that hey, like, what I’m doing can translate and can translate in a big way,” Stonehouse said. “I think a lot of people lose sight. And they see my 53-yard average and everyone thinks, oh, he just outkicks his coverage, he kicks the ball too far, but we set the rookie net record.”

Stonehouse continued, explaining that while it has been reaffirming to be able to prove that he belongs in the NFL, the 2022 season was really only the beginning for him. The 23 year-old said that he does not want this to be the peak of his career, because to him, there is still so much room for growth and improvement. “That’s kind of the goal,” he said. “I just see a lot of untapped opportunities.” 

While it may be surprising to the folks that missed his collegiate career or the supposed “experts” that determine the Ray Guy Award, Stonehouse’s quick ascension in the league is exactly what Ram fans expected after getting to watch him blast balls into the stratosphere for five years at Canvas Stadium. 

It was not the easiest period in program history in terms of team success, however, Stonehouse’s big leg and charming personality made him one of the most popular players on the team. His commitment to CSU Football through those tough times certainly helped in that regard as well. 

Stonehouse reflected on the love he has always received from the CSU community, telling DNVR that in a weird way, being so constantly overlooked nationally probably endeared him to Ram fans even more. 

“I’ve made more fans of my career in general just because of the fact that I am overlooked,” Stonehouse said. “I don’t think that I would have the support that I have without being overlooked.”

Though he knows that you will never be able to please everyone, the doubters will continue to provide fuel for Stonehouse’s fire. Despite everything he proved at CSU, ‘Stoney’ did not receive an invitation to the NFL Combine, nor did he hear his name called in a draft class that had four punters selected. Even after his record-setting season, ‘Stoney’ was not named a Pro Bowl starter or honored on the All-Pro first team. 

“I don’t hold a grudge against anybody or anything like that, or be like, man, I should have been the one drafted at four,” Stonehouse said. “But I do think about how, man, that would have been awesome. Not that I deserve it. But it just goes to show that, like, hey, the work I put in can translate in the league and I can be successful.” 

He’s too humble to truly rip anybody for overlooking him. In fact, Stonehouse went into detail on why he may have gone undrafted. He mentioned how he did not have much experience as a placeholder for kickers. He did not do kickoffs in college either.

Anybody that has ever watched him up and close though, can tell you how the ball just sounds different coming off of his foot. It’s not the typical thud that you hear from punters, it’s sounds more like a boxer hammering a bag in the gym. It’s loud and booming, and it perfectly matches what you see when he launches one into the sky.

I’d sure hate to be the one trying to field one of his kicks. I’d hate even more to be the organizations that passed on him.

Listen to the entire interview with Ryan Stonehouse here.

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