The Tennessee Titans signed several undrafted free agents at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. Former Colorado State punter Ryan Stonehouse is one of those players. Stonehouse holds the all-time NCAA record for the most yards-per-punt (47.8) in college football history. An extremely consistent performer, Stonehouse averaged an astounding 50.9 yards per punt attempt in 2021.
Stonehouse recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about how he formed a relationship with Tennessee throughout the pre-draft process, what his goals and aspirations are ahead of rookie mini-camp and training camp, and so much more.
JM: What a college career you enjoyed. You hold the all-time NCAA record for the most yards-per-punt (47.8) in college football history. You averaged a career-high 50.9 yards per punt attempt in 2021. How do you reflect on your time at Colorado State?
RS: I definitely feel like my career has had its ups and downs. Like you mentioned, being able to walk away from it with the all-time NCAA record is something that really highlighted my career and my time at Colorado State. We went through a few coaching staffs but it was a really cool experience. I had my ups and downs year by year. The All-Mountain-West selection and some of these other accolades you mentioned, that was all awesome. A lot of great things have come out of that.
JM: The accolades keep rolling in. You’ve now signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent. How did the opportunity with the Titans come about?
RS: The Titans consistently stayed in touch with me throughout the pre-draft process. They even came to my Pro Day, which I thought was pretty cool. Assistant special teams coach Chase Blackburn worked me out at Pro Day. We later hopped on a couple of Zoom calls together. I always knew they were interested. Once the draft was over, it just kind of worked out that way.
JM: I’m going to go into a bit more detail regarding your contact. There were several meetings with coach Blackburn. Were you in contact with anybody else?
RS: I had multiple Zoom calls with special teams coach Craig Aukerman as well. I had several meetings with both coach Aukerman and coach Blackburn. Coach Blackburn was the one that came to my Pro Day. That’s how it started.
JM: I imagine you had other offers as well. Why did you pick Tennessee?
RS: Obviously there were some other teams interested throughout the process, during the draft, and whatnot. I really think Tennessee is a great fit for me. I’m excited about getting a chance to go in there with Brett Kern. He’s obviously one of the best veteran punters in the game. I have so much respect for him. It’s a great opportunity for me to compete and learn from a veteran. He can offer something that rookie players don’t know in competition. From a maturity standpoint, he’s been in the league for so long. I’m excited to watch how he handles himself as a pro and see what his process is like. The main reason it all came down to Tennessee for me was simply because it’s a really good fit. They had always been that team that remained in constant contact with me.
JM: You make some great points. When it comes to punting, how would you describe the balance between technique and mental awareness?
RS: The biggest thing is technique. That comes first. Being consistent is the name of the game, especially as you move up in levels and reach the pro ranks. You’re only somewhat consistent in high school, and maybe that’s good enough to get a look in college. Now you have to step it up a notch in college. There’s a lot more on the line. You’ve earned a scholarship and you’re trying to impress the league. Technique gets you that consistency. It allows you to be successful for a long time.
I think the mental part goes hand in hand. I think that’s the biggest thing for a punter or place kicker. Punters have to be able to adapt and react to certain situations. The ball is moving for us whereas a place kicker gets the ball put down in the same spot for them hopefully. They’re constantly making the same kick. The mental part of punting is all about adapting when necessary. You have to handle whatever comes your way, and react in a good way.
JM: You bring me to my next question. I want to continue picking your brain on the mechanics of punting. How do you go about practicing ball placement and different ball drops based on field position?
RS: Situational punting is huge, especially when you get to the next level. The best way to go about it, it’s all about implementing that into your every day practice routines. It’s about developing good habits. With directional punting, the placement has to be ideal. It’s what’s expected of you at the next level. I think you have to implement that into your everyday habits. You’re building consistency. With going about your drops, there are different ways to do that, whether it’s a pooch punt or the different specialty punts. Those are the kinds of things you work on.
Every NFL punter knows how to punt in terms of a straight ball or whatever is considered more routine. Those specialty punts are sometimes the ones you have to work on a little bit more. It has to be an everyday thing. It’s not something you’re going to pick up in a day or two. I think the best answer to your question is to go out there and work on ball placement and ball drops every day.
JM: That’s a great punt. We saw multiple punters drafted during the 2022 NFL Draft. Given your accolades, did going undrafted surprise you? Does that place an extra chip on your shoulder?
RS: No, it really didn’t surprise me at all to be honest with you. It’s what I expected. It definitely gives me a chip on my shoulder. This is sorta’ how my career has always gone from high school to college, and now in the NFL. There are a lot of people that have doubts regarding certain parts of my game. I don’t always meet the prototypical punter threshold. I think that prevented me from getting an invite to the combine, and also what kept me from being drafted.
What’s cool about what I’ve been able to do throughout my career, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve been able to build strong connections with the coaching staff. They gave me a shot and in return, I showed them who I am and I ran away with my opportunity. If you go back and ask any of my coaches about me throughout high school or college, throughout all of the different staffs I played for at Colorado State, every one of them would fight for me and tell you I’m one of the best punters they’ve ever been around, from both an off-field person and athletic standpoint.
I definitely have that chip on my shoulder. One of the greatest gifts I’ve been able to receive throughout my career is having that kind of motivation to prove the doubters wrong. I did it in high school and I barely got recruited. Ronnie Letson and Jamie Bryant took a shot on me at Colorado State without actually seeing me punt until fall camp. He gave me a scholarship sight unseen. It was the same thing with head coach Steve Addazio. When he came in, he’s not a huge fan of specialists. He’ll tell you that right to your face. He turned around when I was there and he really took a liking to me. I think I’ll do the same thing in the NFL.
JM: That’s a terrific story. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what are your goals and aspirations like over these next few months as you attempt to make Tennessee’s final roster?
RS: I want to stay true to myself at the end of the day. I believe in my abilities as a punter. I always have. I have to be consistent and earn the trust of this coaching staff. I want to show them that they can believe in me, too. I want to prove myself as a punter that can make it in this league. I’m trying to become a veteran in this league. That’s what I want to show. My goal is to make the final roster. If that doesn’t happen, I want to be able to say I put my best foot forward all throughout training camp and the offseason. I want to show people what my ability level is. I plan to put that on display at the highest level.
Editor’s note: Interview was conducted in early May.