Ryan Santoso arrived on the University of Minnesota campus last year as a 280-pound kicker and somewhat of a novelty because of his size and big leg. After a redshirt season, the Florida native has lost 35 pounds and is all business as he attempts to win an open competition as the Gophers’ placekicker. The Star Tribune’s Michael Rand caught up with Santoso on his transformation and the season ahead:
Q Did you have a kicking hero growing up?
A Sebastian Janikowski, I was always compared to him.
Q Well, I didn’t want to guess that right away, but I figured with your size that might be the one. Anyone else?
A Graham Gano [Panthers] and Lawrence Tynes ]formerly of multiple NFL teams], they’re from my hometown. I really looked up to them. And Thomas Morestead [Saints], just because he’s a great guy.
Q But you got the Janikowski thing a lot? Did it get old after a while, or did you just roll with it?
A Yes, I definitely got it. It was kind of an honor because he’s a great NFL kicker. He’s one of the best. I was just grateful to be compared to him.
Q What motivated you to change your shape?
A I wanted to be an athlete first, and then a specialist. In high school I got away with it, going through and just being a kicker. But now I want to be a football player, and it’s time to get serious. I’m looking toward a future in the NFL.
Q How were you able to do it?
A Hard work with the strength coaches and the team pushing me. Great leaders — the specialists were helping me. And the dietitians.
Q People always talk about your kicking power. How far back can you make a field goal from?
A In high school, I hit one from 70. But I can hit 55 pretty consistently.
Q The biggest thing now, I imagine, is working on the everyday kicks?
A Yes. The shorter ones are the ones coach makes me work on the most because those are the ones that really count in games.
Q How is camp going so far?
A Very good. A lot better than last year. The experience last year was eye-opening, but now I’m more comfortable. I feel like there’s a weight off my shoulders. I don’t feel like I need to show who I really am anymore because they already know. I just feel like I need to show God who I really am.
Q How much have you kicked inside TCF Bank Stadium?
A In the summer before I went to 1-on-1 kicking camp, I went there every Wednesday with all the specialists. We got used to the situation there.
Q What’s it like inside the stadium? Are there different kinds of winds?
A Every time it’s crazy, the wind and everything. I mean, going into a stadium like that is just awesome. It’s a Big Ten stadium. Just thinking that I could play there is awesome. … You have to get used to [the wind]. But I love a challenge. It will pay off in the long run.