Trio of former Regina Rams thriving in the NFL

Trio of former Regina Rams thriving in the NFL

Former University of Regina Rams player Brett Jones was on the field with the New York Giants this weekend, but it wasn't like every other Sunday.  The Weyburn-native started for the team and took to the field as one of the game captains. 

"To go from Weyburn to New York: he's playing for the New York Giants, for heaven's sake. Snapping the ball to Eli Manning. That takes a lot of courage," Frank McCrystal said, who coached Jones with the Rams.

Jones was first signed to the team in February 2015 after spending two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders. 

McCrystal said it's special to see Jones find his footing in the NFL, like other former Rams, Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.

"Not only are they on the team and not only are they starting, but they're obviously taking on leadership roles," he said.

"I'm somewhat humbled by the courage that they had to do what they did," said McCrystal who coached all three players during his 30 years as the Rams boss. 

In addition to Ryan, Hicks and Jones, McCrystal noted former Rams player Stefan Charles joined the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this year is currently "waiting to get picked up."

"We had four guys at the beginning of the season on NFL rosters. They weren't on a practice roster. They were guys that were actually dressed and playing in games." McCrystal said.

"Three of the four end up being starters and captains."

He said common traits shared by the former Rams are that they're coachable, smart, they listen and remain humble. 

McCrystal said it would seem people in Saskatchewan are capable of special things.

"I think the big thing is getting looked at, getting noticed, and when you are noticed and when you have that opportunity to seize that opportunity." 

Seeing these players in NFL action can give younger players something to aspire to, but it can also show dreams can become reality if the work is put in, McCrystal said.

Small prairie school making headlines

"We see that you can reach the absolute zenith of quality of football from a school like the University of Regina," said Regina Rams Head Coach Steve Bryce.

"That's the upper echelon, that's the place where everybody wants to be."

When Bryce first took the job, people questioned how he would sell a program at a small school centred in the prairies to parents and recruits. 

He said those tidbits sell themselves.

"People want to go to a smaller, more intimate environment," he said, adding that translates onto the field.

"People are more likely to go to battle and finish the battle because they care about the people next to them."

The little university on the prairies is now international news because of the players, Bryce said. 

"You turn on Sunday Night Football and you've got three different athletes that are saying, you know, I'm from the University of Regina, and it's great," Bryce said.