Once a tech school welder, Ramczyk now poised to be drafted into the NFL

Image By: Jessi Schoville and Jessi Schoville

Sitting in his welding class at Mid-State Technical College in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, four years ago, Ryan Ramczyk was thinking about the sport he still loved. The first-team All-State left tackle in high school passed up Division-I offers to play football. Like so many other 18-year-olds, he was unsure about his future and followed a path towards working in the trades.

Fast-forward to 2016, and he’s the starting left tackle for the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers and has NFL scouts keeping tabs on his performances. Ramczyk took a tumultuous path to Madison, but he couldn’t be happier with how it all played out.

“I’ve faced a lot of adversity through my years since coming out of high school,” he said. “I think it worked out for the best.”

Because Ramczyk didn’t want to go far geographically after high school, he declined joining current Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst on the Pittsburgh Panthers. He originally planned to play football at Division-II Winona State, but he backed out and wound up a mile down the road from his high school at MSTC.

“I was just going to school and working, and I knew something was missing,” he said. “I missed football.”

Ramczyk didn’t have to go far to get back on the football field. Another mile away was Division-III UW-Stevens Point, where he picked up where he left off at left tackle, earning first-team state recognition once again.

After two seasons with the Pointers, he knew he was doing what he loved, and he wanted to go as far as he could with football. That brought him to the Badgers, but this meant he had to sit out the 2015 season as part of the NCAA’s transfer rules.

This past spring, before even taking a single snap at the Division-I level, Chryst named Ramczyk his starting left tackle, confident in the growth the young lineman made during his ineligible year in the program.

“He grew tremendously,” redshirt sophomore guard Michael Dieter said. “Even when he came in, he was a raw talent who had pure athleticism and strength, but I’ve seen him grow into someone who understands our offense and is becoming an all-around great player.”

Through the first five weeks of the season, Ramczyk was the third highest-graded offensive tackle in the nation by Pro Football Focus. He has yet to give up a single sack, and he has only allowed three quarterback pressures the entire season.

He was also a big part of opening up lanes in the running game, even as the left guard position next to him has trotted out three different starters this season. Technically a redshirt junior, the 22-year-old Ramczyk is eligible for the NFL draft, and if he continues to play at such a high level, he could hear his name called in the top three rounds.

“He’s a workman. That’s the best thing about him. It’s not about a lot of flash,” offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said. “I’m excited about where he’s at, and I’m excited about where he can go, because I think there’s a lot there to continue to grow with.”

Ramczyk is trying not to get too far ahead of himself though. In the span of five years, he could go from tech-school student to NFL left tackle, but his focus is solely on Saturdays and doing whatever he can to help Wisconsin get its next win.

“Being a football player, it’s always about the next day,” he said. “Anything can happen and I think I just have to keep trying to get better and keep working on my craft.”

He’s just glad that his craft is football, not welding.

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