The backstories of players who get NFL opportunities as undrafted free agents can sometimes reveal winding, incredible journeys to where they are now. Punter Ryan Anderson, signed to the 90-man roster by the New York Giants after the team’s recently-concluded rookie mini-camp, is an example.
Let’s delve into Anderson’s story as we continue our look at the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
How he got here
This is quite the tale.
Anderson began his collegiate career as a wide receiver/punter for Division II Saginaw Valley. After two years, he transferred to Division III Olivet College. Again, he was a wide receiver/punter. Oh, and he played basketball, too. With a year of eligibility left, he went to Division I Rutgers as a punter in 2017.
Per NJ Advance Media research, it’s possible Anderson was the first player to pull off that trifecta.
Here’s what Anderson said about that unusual path:
“When I first made this transition I had people come up to me and say they never heard of anybody doing that. Because I started in the middle (Division II), went down to the bottom (Division III) and now I came up to the top. I don’t think too much of it, but it’s funny that no one has heard of that.
“But it’s been a long road and everything I dreamed of.’’
Anderson averaged a Rutgers record 44.4 yards per punt and was named First-Team All-Big Ten during his only season punting for the Scarlet Knights.
Anderson was invited to the Giants’ local pro day before the 2018 NFL Draft, but wasn’t signed. His only offer ended up being a rookie mini-camp tryout with the New England Patriots. He wasn’t signed, and din’t get any other opportunities last season.
Anderson, though, didn’t give up. Here is what he told ScarletNation.com:
“I would wake up at 4 a.m. to lift before work,” he explained. “And then, after work, it was starting to get darker earlier as it got into September, October and November. It was getting dark before I even got out of work. So I would go to a field, it was an uneven soccer field, and practice punting. I would shine my car headlights on the field and then I would use a flashlight to go find the balls. There were little lights in the distance, but it wasn’t enough to light up the field.
“I really could not see the flight of the ball, but I have been punting long enough to know if it was a good ball or bad ball when it came off my foot. But sometimes I would lose a ball because it hit and roll. There were times I’d be out there for 20 extra minutes trying to find the balls.”
He earned his recent mini-camp tryout with the Giants by participating in a second Rutgers Pro Day. The Giants liked what they saw, and added him to the 90-man roster.
Does Anderson really have an opportunity to unseat incumbent punter Riley Dixon? Acquired via trade from the Denver Broncos last season, Dixon had a good season. He was 11th in the league with an average of 45.4 yards per punt, and his net average of 41.8 placed the Giants seventh in the league.
That sets the bar fairly high for Anderson.
“Ryan is a lefty. Whenever you can bring a lefty in, and you can get a righty spin and a lefty spin is always good. Ryan has a lot of potential,” said special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey. “His maturation from last year to this year has been huge. He came here last year to our local day. To see him again this year was a big difference. You can tell he’s been working on his craft, and he’s been working hard. It’s good to have him in to have a little competition. It’s always good to have two guys in where they can kind of compete against each other. It makes it better.”
One other oddity about Anderson? While he is a left-footed punter, he is an ambidextrous thrower.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it? He can throw righty and lefty,” McGaughey said. “He’s a very athletic kid. He was a three-sport All-State athlete in high school. So, the kid is very athletic. I think he was like the all-time leading three-point shot maker, or something like, that in high school. The kid is talented. He has some ability.”
Enough to earn the Giants’ punting job? That seems like a tall order. Considering Anderson’s journey to this point, though, anything is possible.