For a final year of college, punter Ryan Anderson is both coming home and headed away at the same time. Anderson is home in a sense that a life-long Big Ten fan has his opportunity in one of college football's most prestigious conferences.
Raised in DeWitt (Mich.) and a graduate of Division III Olivett (Mich.) College, Anderson leaves home for a scholarship opportunity at Rutgers University. When the offer came during an official visit, Anderson's decision was easy.
“It's kind of like how life comes full circle,” Anderson said. “I started off trying to do it as a receiver in high school and this shows what's meant to be will be. God always has a plan, and I feel his plan for me was to bring me back to that dream as a little kid to play in the Big Ten and ideally make it to the next level after the next season.”
The weekend official visit came one week after Anderson received a similar experience at Delaware. Friday was his first meeting with head coach Chris Ash after he hosted assistants Vince Okruch and Toby Neinas over the last two weeks.
“Coach Ash seems like he's a great guy,” Anderson said. “I've heard nothing but great things about him and from people that know him or met him at coaching conventions. I was looking forward to being able to meet him and the rest of the staff and I've found all good things so far.”
Anderson's track record is enough that professional football, in addition to business school, is a realistic goal in his opinion.
As a punter, 38 percent of Anderson's punts exceeded 50 yards with a 46.2 average in 2016 – an NCAA Division III record. Anderson trapped opponents inside their 20-yard line 32 percent of the time.
“That's been my dream since I was a really young kid,” Anderson said. “I'm back to the realization that it's a strong possibility that I could make it to the next level. Kicking and punting is a statistical game, but at the same time coming from a D-III school, my numbers were better than the majority of Division I guys. I was tied for fourth, I believe, so that means there are only three people out there in the country that can beat me in numbers. They all got their publicity because they're at big schools. I'm a two-time All-American. Just to be able to do what I've done [at Olivet] on a bigger stage is an overall goal.”
Anderson's complete conversion to punter was not an easy decision. Anderson still considers him an athlete first, and brings the resume to back it up. On top of All-American numbers as a punter over two years at Olivet, the 6-foot-3 Anderson was a dangerous wide receiver and basketball player.
Anderson caught 80 passes for1,221 yards and 17 touchdowns during a senior season that included 21.1 points per game in an all-state year on the hardcourt.
“I've been an athlete my whole life,” Anderson said. “I'll still say in my mind that I'm an athlete who knows how to punt well, not just a punter. I guess I've never had a season where I've only punted so far. I haven't really crossed that bridge yet. As far as my training goes, it's 100 percent that I'm focused on punting for the last year.”