Rookie Ryan Isenor is the latest Returning Ryan for the Gryphons.
Isenor set a Gryphon single-game record of 222 punt return yards in last weekend’s 81-10 whitewash of the Windsor Lancers and he also had 22 kickoff return yards to be named the OUA league’s special teams player of the week.
“I’m so honoured to get it because one of our Gryphons has got it every week,” he said. “It shows what we can do and it shows that we’re a team not to be overlooked on all (aspects of the game).”
Defensive end Alain Cimankinda was the defensive player of the week in Week 1 and receiver Zeph Fraser was the offensive player of the week in Week 2.
Isenor has assumed the duties as returner from the now-graduated Ryan Nieuwesteeg, something he focused on during the recruiting phase.
“Obviously Nieuwesteeg was leaving and he was a really good returner and I knew they were looking for someone and I was just hoping to fill the spot,” Isenor said. “They talked to me about it and they said that’s what they wanted me to do. They wanted me to fill his spot, but I was hoping to make an impact on all the specials – kick return, punt return, field goal defence.”
Although Nieuwesteeg isn’t with the team any more, it wouldn’t be surprising if Isenor was mistaken for him. Their styles and builds are very similar.
“That’s what everyone tells me,” Isenor said.
Isenor’s 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds and Nieuwesteeg was 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds last season, his fifth and final year with the Gryphons.
To get an idea of how Nieuwesteeg played, Isenor attended a couple of games last season.
“I watched his highlight film, too,” he said. “I’ll probably watch his highlight film once or twice a month to see it and see how he was playing and see how he worked with the blocks on the team.”
While many find returning punts and kicks tough, Isenor doesn’t find that to be the case.
“I’ve been doing it for so long,” he said. “Everyone says it’s hard, but I just find it comes natural. I played running back pretty much my whole life before I came here. I can read a hole really well and I have really good vision. All you need to return punts is to read one hole. It’s a developing hole not and it’s not like you just happen to see it. It’s you know it’s supposed to be there so you can look it off and then go right to it. Everything sets up good and it’s just a race from there.”
Isenor also draws on his experience playing for the Delhi District Secondary School Raiders.
“In high school, I played kickoff so I know how everyone acts and you can sort of counteract.”
A relative late comer to football, Isenor started playing with the Brantford Bisons when he was 11.
“A lot of guys start really young,” he said. “When I was younger, I was getting over 15 touchdowns a season and everyone thought I’d been playing for five years and stuff, but it was my first or second year.”
The Gryphons are to play the Toronto Varsity Blues at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m. and will be looking to keep the momentum they gained in the win over Windsor.
“We’ve just got to keep going at practice,” Isenor said. “You can tell we’re getting better every day. Our game prep is getting really good and everyone is firing on all levels and you can tell the chemistry is there now.”