More than just Receiver U

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The University of Regina Rams program produces top talent

Ed Kapp
Sports Writer

It was a bit of a rocky start for the University of Regina Rams this season. With signal caller Marc Mueller sidelined early on in the season and the team stumbling out of the gate with three straight losses, the last couple of months have been a trying time for the football squad.

As it stands now, it appears as if the best-case scenario for the team, record-wise, would be a 4-4 mark at the end of the season—a slight departure from last year’s 5-3 finish.

In honour of the Rams’ aspirations to pick up four wins by the end of the season—and to help remind the club of some of the better times the squad has had as a university team—the following are believed to be the four best University of Regina Rams players to transition to the professional level.

Neal Hughes

Arguably the most productive player to ever suit up for the University of Regina Rams, Neal Hughes has enjoyed a near-decade-long run in professional football since graduating with a degree in education in 2003.

The proud owner of nearly 3,000 rushing yards and 24 total touchdowns during his tenure in the CIS, Hughes signed on with his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2004 after being bypassed in the CFL’s annual entry draft.

Although Hughes has served primarily as a contributor on special teams — and as a backup to Chris Szarka — during his run with the Green and White, when called upon, the Regina product has consistently performed on the gridiron.

While the future is uncertain for Hughes, his contributions both on and off the field have made the Regina product one of Saskatchewan’s most popular and respected veterans.

Chris Getzlaf

Although Chris Getzlaf only played for two years in university, after half-a-decade in the Canadian Football League, the Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver has established himself as one of the league’s top catchers.

Getzlaf experienced a less-than-stellar introduction to the CFL. After spending the majority of his rookie season on Hamilton’s practice roster, he was traded to the Green and White, where he also spent his season as a member of the practice squad. However, over the course of the last few seasons, the Regina native has certainly come into his own on the field.

After picking up a little less than 250 yards in only five games in 2008, Getzlaf, en route to being regarded as one of the league’s most productive players, has picked up over 2,000 receiving yards and nearly 20 touchdowns in the last three seasons.

Jason Clermont

While it’s probably safe to say that Jason Clermont’s best days on the gridiron are behind him, during his prime, the former Ram was one of the CFL’s most dangerous players.

Responsible for helping usher the Rams program from the ranks of the Canadian Junior Football League into the CIS, Clermont helped the University of Regina earn a bid in the 2000 Vanier Cup and was named the Canada West outstanding player in his senior season with the squad.

After being drafted by the B.C. Lions in 2002, it didn’t take long for Clermont, who was named the league’s outstanding rookie the same year, to establish himself in the pass-oriented CFL.

From 2002 to 2008, Clermont was a fixture on the Lions’ high-powered offence –registering 428 receptions for nearly 6,000 yards and 37 touchdowns – and was twice named a league all-star.

In 2009, to the pleasure of most fans of the Green and White, Clermont signed with his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Although Clermont has seen a distinct drop in production since signing with the Roughriders — only snagging 70 receptions in three campaigns — he still serves both as a team leader and, in an inconsistent season, one of Darian Durant’s most dependable targets.

Jon Ryan

The only University of Regina product to ever suit up in the National Football League, Jon Ryan is arguably the best football player that the program has ever produced.

Despite only playing one year of football in high school – in which he helped the Sheldon-Williams Spartans win both city and provincial championships – Ryan immediately agreed to take his talents to the field for the University of Regina.

During his time with the Rams, Ryan split his time as a wide receiver and a punter, quickly established himself as one of the best players in the CIS. Ryan was named to the Canada West All-Star    once as a receiver and thrice as a punter.

After finishing his tenure at the University of Regina, Ryan was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24th overall in the 2004 CFL Draft. Following only two seasons with the Blue and Gold, in which he set a pair of CFL punting record, Ryan signed on to play with the Green Bay Packers in 2006.

One of only a handful of Saskatchewan-born-athletes to make it to the ranks of the NFL, Ryan was honoured with the Ed Block Courage Award after his first season. During his second campaign with the club, Ryan helped lead the Packers to the NFC’s championship game.

To the surprise of many, after a number of successful seasons in Green Bay, Ryan and the Packers parted ways after the conclusion of the 2007 campaign. However, within a week, Ryan had signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

With Seattle, Ryan has further established himself as one of the league’s most dependable punters—planting nearly 100 kicks inside his opponents’ 20-yard-line and another 30 inside the 10-yard mark over the course of the last four seasons. His talent and success in the best league in the world make him the top player to ever have worn a Rams jersey.

Rams vs. UBC Highlights:

In a game that was considered a must-win for Regina, numerous players stepped up.

The Rams fell to the Thunderbirds (4-2) by a final score of 23-16 and now boast a 2-4 record.

Converted slotback Zach Oleynik finished with 53 pass attempts for the Rams, just one short of the schools record held by Teale Orban and Mark Anderson.

Oleynik completed 29 of 53 pass attempts for 388 yards and two touchdowns

Numerous receivers came up big for the Rams – Brenden Owens finished with seven catches for 120 yards, Jared Jonatta had seven catches for 87 yards, and Mark McConkey caught six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Adrian Charles rushed 18 times for 67 yards.

Jamir Walker did what he does best, registering one interception.

Fifth-year Mike Kerr stepped up for the defence, registering one interception, six solo tackles, and three assisted tackles.

UBC quarterback Billy Green went 19-for-37, racking up 273 passing yards and two passing touchdowns.

After leading 7-3 at the half, the Rams found themselves down by a touchdown with just one minute 33 seconds remaining in regulation. A late drive lead the team to the seven-yard-line, with time for just two more plays. Both of Oleynik’s passes fell incomplete as time expired.

The Rams next game action is scheduled for Oct. 22 when they take on the University of Saskatchewan at Mosaic Stadium.  Kickoff is at 7p.m.

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