CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WKRG) — Ryan Santoso’s determination and persistence have paid off as the former Pace High School star has landed the starting placekicking job with the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers released incumbent kicker Joey Slye Saturday after Santoso connected on a 52-yard field goal in a 34-9 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday. Carolina had just acquired Santoso a day earlier in a trade with the New York Giants.
Santoso wore No. 9 in Friday’s preseason finale – a number last worn in Carolina by another kicker from Northwest Florida: Graham Gano. Santoso had been battling Gano for the kicking job with the Giants.
“He helped me so much,” Santoso said of Gano. “He just gave me a ton of information. It was really cool walking off the practice field Thursday (after the trade) and he was one of the first guys there to give me a big hug.”
Gano, 34, attended Tate High School.
It’s been an odd journey for Santoso, 26, from his native Milton to a regular job in the NFL.
Santoso spent his first two years at the University of Minnesota as a placekicker, but switched to punting his final two years. He was one of the final cuts of the Detroit Lions as a punter prior to the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Later signed to the Tennessee Titan’s practice squad, Santoso was activated and saw his first professional action late in the 2019 season, kicking off in three games for Tennessee but not attempting any field goals or extra points.
Santoso was poised to play in the C.F.L. last year for the Montreal Alouettes before the league canceled its 2020 season due to COVID-19. Santoso was then signed by the Giants and was assigned to its practice squad. He was placed on the 53-man roster late in the season but was never active for a game.
Santoso kicked two extra points for the Giants in two preseason games this year before being traded to Carolina.
At 6’5”, 260 pounds, Santoso is the biggest kicker in the N.F.L.