Regina native Jon Ryan among Canadians playing in Super Bowl XLVIII
Published Wednesday, January 29, 2014 10:00AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 29, 2014 5:20PM EST
The family of Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan says it's been "surreal" to watch the Regina native progress from his start in the Canadian Football League to playing in this Sunday's Super Bowl.
Ryan's mother and brother, Barb and Steve, will be among the 15 family members heading to East Rutherford, N.J., to cheer on Ryan and the Sehawks as they take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Ryan will be the first player from Saskatchewan to ever play in a Super Bowl.
Steve said his entire family is still in disbelief.
"It's just mind-blowing to me. I don't know when it will sink in, or if it ever will," he told CTV's Canada AM. "It's once in a lifetime for sure, for both Jon and our family."
Steve was in the stands earlier this month, when the Sehawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers to clinch a spot in the Super Bowl. He said the experience was incredible.
"It still feels kind of surreal to be in the stands for that game and see Jon really reach his dream, I was overcome with emotion," he said. "I can't imagine what this week is going to be like, because that was something very special."
Growing up in Regina, the brothers always played sports and Ryan even dreamed of playing one day for the CFL, Steve said. But it never occurred to him that he might play one day in the biggest football game in the world.
"The Super Bowl was something that was beyond what our dreams were," Steve said.
However, Barb said her son's success is a testament to his dedication to the game.
"He has been working on this since he was six years old, and I'm sure it was on the back of his mind forever," she told Canada AM.
It's been a wild journey for Ryan, who initially played hockey growing up before playing football at the University of Regina. After a brief stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he was picked up by the NFL's Green Bay Packers in 2006.
After two years with Green Bay, he was released and picked up by Seattle.
"Now he's in his eighth year (with the NFL) and he's an established veteran in the league," Steve said. "It's quite a story, the odds were definitely stacked against him pretty much the whole way."
Ryan is not the only Canadian connection to this year’s Super Bowl.
Luke Willson, from LaSalle, Ont., also plays for Seattle, and Orlando Franklin, who hails from Scarborough, Ont., plays for Denver.
Willson was at the media day at the Prudential Center on Tuesday. He told CTV Windsor that the entire experience was a bit "crazy."
"It's a little surreal to be honest with you," he said. "I didn't really know what to expect, but it's kind of crazy to be sitting here with all this media. I'm trying to soak it in as much as I can."
In addition to the Canadian players, a former Alberta resident will be watching the game from owner's box. Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen still retains his Canadian citizenship, according to the NFL. Bowlen had previously practiced law in Alberta before becoming a majority owner of the Broncos.