Notebook: Ramczyk enjoying 'amazing journey'

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS - When it comes to first-round picks, the typical path to the National Football League does not usually include a year away from the sport, a stop at a Division III outpost and offseason hip surgery preventing said prospect from participating in the annual scouting combine.

Unless your name is Ryan Ramczyk.

“It was an amazing journey for sure,” Ramczyk said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “Enjoyed every step of it, wouldn’t change a thing. Enjoyed my time at both schools and played some good football.”

His mention of “both schools” hints at the atypical path that never left the state of Wisconsin but was winding nonetheless.

Ramczyk, the top-rated offensive lineman in this year’s draft, took a year off after graduating from Stevens Point Area Senior High, to gather his thoughts as his life approached a crossroads. He missed football enough to enroll at UW-Stevens Point, where he played two seasons, and later transferred to the University of Wisconsin — a massive leap from Division III to Division I.

And now, he’s on the verge of becoming a first-round pick.

“It’s a special thing, it’s an amazing feeling,” Ramczyk said. “Really honored to be able to come here and talk to all of the coaching staffs here and get this experience. It’s incredible.”

But a journey like Ramczyk’s comes with asterisks, and teams at the combine asked a number of questions about his desire to play football — why would he step away from the game if he really loved it? — and the injured hip that needed surgery Jan. 5.

When it came to the year away, Ramczyk said he contemplated doing something else with his life after high school. But as football season came and went, the urge to return was overwhelming.

“I was 18 years old,” Ramczyk said. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time. Being out of the game a little bit made me realize what I had given up.”

When it came to the hip, Ramczyk said his surgeon flew to Indianapolis to meet with teams during medical checkups earlier this week. Everything looked “really clean, really good” eight weeks out from the procedure. He expects to be ready by training camp and would like to participate in OTAs.

Either way, Ramczyk is likely to be the first offensive lineman taken in this year’s draft if team doctors felt the same about his hip. Though he played left tackle during his only season at Wisconsin — he earned consensus first-team All-America honors — teams have envisioned him at a number of positions across the line.

It’s another potential turn in a very winding road.

“Obviously I’m going to play the position the coaches want me to play, that’s going to help the team out the most,” Ramczyk said. “But I’ve really heard everything from tackle, to guard, to center, so it’s been interesting.”

New place, old face

Matt Malaspina, the newest member of the Packers’ scouting department, arrived in Green Bay with a thorough knowledge of general manager Ted Thompson, his new boss.

Speaking at the combine, Thompson said his relationship with Malaspina formed during their time as colleagues with the Seattle Seahawks. They overlapped for five seasons from 2000-04 with Thompson serving as vice president of football operations and Malaspina working as an area scout.

Malaspina spent the last 11 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and served most recently as the director of college scouting. He also spent three years as a national scout.

“He’s a good guy, a good scout,” Thompson said. “Very intensive scout. He and I worked together when we were in Seattle. He did the Southeast region when I was in Seattle. We became very close during that time, and he became available. I thought it was a good investment for us to hire him.”

Brotherly love

Former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey was among the most electrifying players in college football the last two years.

He ran for 2,019 yards as a sophomore and 1,603 more as a junior. His touchdown total swelled to 31 from scrimmage and one each as a punt returner and kick returner.

But Christian is hardly the first member of his family to harness his athletic gifts. His mother played soccer at Stanford. His father, Ed McCaffrey, played football at Stanford and won three Super Bowls as a wide receiver. His brother, Max, played receiver at Duke and finished the 2016 season on the Packers’ 53-man roster.

“Max is my best friend in the whole world,” Christian said during his media session at the combine. “Growing up we were very competitive with each other, we were constantly playing one-on-one basketball or playing football, tearing up the yard, doing everything together. All his best friends were my best friends. Even still today (we) go at it a bit. He's been such an amazing influence in my life, and I'm extremely happy that I can call him my older brother.”

And there’s more. His grandfather ran track at Duke and won a silver medal in the Olympics. Two aunts played college sports at Virginia and Duke. Three uncles did the same at Duke, Vanderbilt and Husson College.

McCaffrey actually was asked if his family is the most athletic in the world.

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “I’ll put us against anybody.”

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