Ryan has had the unique opportunity to play football at several different levels. A UCLA Bruin in college, he went on the play in NFL Europe (winning a championship with the Rhein Fire), the NFL (notably Buffalo from 2003-2007), and later the United Football League.
Check out the Q&A below to see some of Ryan’s thoughts on his time as a Bill and what he’s been up to since.
Scott DelleFave: What was it like playing in the United Football League?
Ryan Neufeld: Playing in the United Football League was an avenue that allowed me to extend my career and the experience was really enjoyable and fulfilling. When my contract with the Bills expired after the 2007 season I was unsuccessful in signing with another NFL team in 2008. I really missed the game and wasn’t ready to give it up, so I looked at the UFL as an opportunity to keep playing the game. This was my main motivation for playing in the UFL. I knew there was a slim chance to get back in the NFL because of my age so I really wanted to savor this opportunity. All of the players and coaches had NFL experience so the quality of competition was pretty high. I was also very fortunate to have Jim Haslett as my coach. We ended up going undefeated through the regular season and lost the championship game by a last second field goal which was obviously heartbreaking. In 2010 I decided to play again and I knew going into the season that it would be my last. Unfortunately, during training camp I tore a ligament in my knee and was unable to play that season and thus concluded my football career. Overall I was grateful the UFL was there for me to put the pads on again.
Scott: What have you been doing since last playing in the UFL a few years ago?
Ryan: We live in Frisco, which is about 20 minutes north of downtown Dallas. My daughter is now 5 and will start school in the fall. My son is 8 and is autistic so we have been pretty busy providing him with opportunities to succeed. I’ve also been involved with Miracle League here in Frisco which is an organization that provides kids with special needs the opportunity to play sports. I helped the Frisco Miracle League organize a flag football league and we recently finished our inaugural season. It was deeply rewarding to see the joy on those kids faces as they got a chance to do something they thought would never happen.
Scott: What was your greatest on and off the field memory here in Buffalo?
Ryan: I have so many great memories as a Bill, but probably my greatest was opening day in 2003. This was the first time I stepped on the field as a member of the Bills. Prior to the 2003 season I had been out of football for 2 years after playing in Dallas and Jacksonville. I was in training camps and went on several private workouts but was unable to stick with anyone in 2001 and 2002. I was so close to giving up on the dream when Buffalo called and sign me. I knew after being signed I was still a long shot to make the team. I had worked extremely hard those 2 seasons I didn’t play and the 2003 offseason and it finally paid off. The best part was beating the Patriots 31-0 that day.
I have 2 great memories off the field during my time in Buffalo. On September 23rd, 2004 my son was born and on May 14th, 2008 my daughter was born. Both kids were born right there in Buffalo.
Scott: Favorite stories from training camp?
Ryan: Well, training camp can be such a grind I wouldn’t call many stories “favorites” (Lol). Each training camp was always a time to prove myself in an effort to make the team. From my rookie year in 1999 as an undrafted free agent till my last year in the NFL with Buffalo in 2007 I was always on the “chopping block”. In 2003 I remember we went to Cleveland to practice and scrimmage the Browns. I had a good few days of practice, particularly on special teams. During punt return drills, for example, I man handled my guy. I kept him from going down field in coverage and one time I shoved him so hard his feet came off the ground as he went down. And this was their starting punt unit. I performed solidly like this against the Browns while making minimal mistakes physically and no mistakes mentally. One evening in the hotel I saw our Special Teams coordinator, Danny Smith, and he told me he was going to find a way to get me on the team. Hearing this motivated me even more to keep pushing and working hard.
Scott: What advice would you give rookies?
Ryan: Embrace every day you have the opportunity to put on an NFL uniform. It goes by so fast. I heard someone say before, “the days are long but the years go fast.” Training camp can be a grind, the season can be a grind; take time to enjoy it. Get involved in the Buffalo community, the fans don’t know you but they love you already. Give back to them as much as you can.
Scott: What would you like to say to the Buffalo fans?
Ryan: Thank you for all your support. I really enjoyed the 5 years I spent there and I look back at that time as the best years of my NFL career. Finally… keep Billieving!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Ryan! #BillsMafia, be sure to throw Ryan a follow on Twitter at @RyanNeufeld88.