When Graham Gano was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list a year ago and it looked like the New York Giants were going to have to turn to Ryan Santoso to handle placekicking duties, head coach Joe Judge and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey each sang Santoso’s praises.
“Ryan’s a guy who has a huge leg, he’s shown a tremendous amount of improvement since he’s been here. It’s a unique skillset that he does all three, field goals, kickoffs and punts,” head coach Joe Judge said of Santoso when it appeared the Giants might need him last season. “He’s definitely a developing player. I think he has a big upside in this league for a long time, I really do.”
“This kid has a ton of talent, he will kick in this league one day,” McGaughey said.
Santoso did not kick in that game against the Cincinnati Bengals as Gano was cleared in time to return.
With his 26th birthday approaching on Aug. 26, Santoso is back with the Giants for a second season.
“I really appreciate everything that they’ve [the Giants] helped me with. I appreciate their confidence in me and their kind words. I’ve learned a ton from my time here,” Santoso said recently during a chat with Big Blue View.
“I’m just working on getting better today. Working on refining my tools and trying to make each kick.”
Santoso is an interesting case. He handled placekicking duties his first two seasons in college at Minnesota, making 29 of 39 field goal attempts (74.4 percent). in his last two seasons, he punted exclusively, averaging 41.8 yards per punt.
He has dabbled in both during NFL stops beginning in 2019 with the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans and now the Giants. Santoso did hit some punts during a drill with the Giants earlier in camp, but he is currently focused mostly on placekicking.
Santoso said he is “focusing on being the best kicker I could possibly be.”
“Something I’ve been blessed with is to be able to do both. I’ve had amazing players and coaches around me to help me learn how to do both whether it was in college or in the pros,” he said.
“I just want to be sharp, give myself a chance to stay in this league. It’s a hard league to be a part of — it’s even harder to stay in it. So, the more that you can do the better. Right now I just feel that whatever the coaches want me to do is what I’m going to do. It seems like we’re leaning more towards being a kicker, but at the same time I’m just going to do whatever I’m told.”
If Santoso is going to have a future as an NFL placekicker and not just a practice squad insurance policy, which he was in 2020, that future is likely to come outside the Giants organization.
Giants placekicker Graham Gano, 34, is one of the best in the business. He is coming off a season where he made 31 of 32 field goal attempts, and signed a three-year, $14 million contract.
Santoso is simply trying to focus on honing his craft.
“I don’t think it’s very important to think on ‘when’s my chance coming?’ I think it’s important to focus on today. The chances will come. The chances will come. They’ll take care of themselves. All I can do is control what I can control each and every day, and that’s getting better,” Santoso said.
“Throughout the last year of being on practice squad, and than OTAs, training camp, time in Tennessee, time in Detroit my biggest focus was just getting better every single day.
“I’m very fortunate to have had those opportunities. Whatever comes next I’ve just gotta do what I’ve gotta do.”
While he waits for his chance, Santoso will keep learning from Gano.
“Graham’s amazing. He’s taken me under his wing. He’s like a brother to me now,” Santoso said. “It’s really cool to hear all of his experiences and learn and just hear what he’s been through in this league.
“Everyone’s got experiences that they learn from. To even just pick his brain over lunch or doing recovery together, just being able to take care of yourself and give yourself the best chance to succeed every single day. Preparing every single day, doing everything possible just to give yourself a chance.”