JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ryan Giaratano wants you to know he's a dual-threat. He's a punter for the Jacksonville University football team, and the Dolphins' self-proclaimed number one cheerleader (which is up for debate with the spirit squad).
If you watch the senior outside of fourth downs, you'll see a teammate roaming the sidelines offering inspiration, praise, and a hearty smile.
"Being a punter, I get to watch the defense and offense during practice. Seeing my brothers make a good play gets me going. I live through those guys," said Giaratano. "Like seeing an offensive lineman pull and pancake a d-lineman, I'm in the air."
His development into a competitive spirit dates back to a young age as his childhood enjoyment of futbol transitioned into punting and kicking in football. Giaratano started playing the sport in fifth grade but was known more for his skills as a quarterback than a specialist, evidenced by a Donovan McNabb plaque in his room growing up. At Cardinal Gibbons High School, the blonde-haired, Coral Springs, Fla., native grew (from 5-2 to his current 6-0, and 145 to 190 pounds), threw (for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs) and gained notoriety as a kicker. Despite his glory days as a quarterback now seen in the rearview mirror, he has never relinquished the boom of his right leg.
Giarantano garnered interest in placekicking from Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and a handful of programs, but his competitive fire to play quarterback in college drew his attention elsewhere. He chose Jacksonville University for a chance to run its offense.
As a freshman, Giarantano saw playing time on Jacksonville's former junior varsity team, but repeated hit to his shoulder forced a full-time focus on punting. Former Dolphin standout Dylan Lynch, whose name is dotted throughout Dolphin kicking records, mentored Giaratano.
Fast-forward to present-day – a brief pause at his favorite Dolphin memory, a 2014 victory over Penn where he rushed for 22 yards on a fake punk – and Giaratano is wrapping up a successful career.
His career average of 41 yards-per-punt is second all-time in the Jacksonville record book, and this season, he currently ranks fourth in the Pioneer Football League in punt average. He led the league in 2014 with a 41.4-yard average, and was second in 2015.
Following the offseason coaching change last winter, he chose to return for his senior year due to the relationships he has formed at JU.
"JU is my home. It came down to the relationships that I've made here. I live with three great guys that I've known since freshman year, Robert Ritterhoff, Rylan Wells, and Gabe Stewart, who all start for us and play great football," said Giaratano. "I wanted to take the field one last time with my teammates."
"I think he has a tremendously positive attitude and was encouraged when he came back this year," said Head Coach Ian Shields. "He always brings energy to the room, and he has some talent, too."
"I take my role as a punter seriously and the number one cheerleader on the sideline," added Giaratano. "I like to amp us up and let our team know, for sure, someone is always watching, and it's Ryan."