By: Daniel Hooker
Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina’s all-time leading punter Ian Berryman closed out the 2019 calendar year by signing a reserve/future contract with the NFL’s New York Jets. Berryman was among nine signed by the organization on Monday, Dec. 30 following the conclusion of the league’s regular season.
A reserve/futures contract keeps a player tied to a team, but the contract does not go into effect until the start of the new league year in 2020.
Berryman (2015-18) was signed as an undrafted free agent (UDFA) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in late April of 2019, the fifth-different former WCU player to make a NFL roster. Berryman was in a battle with Josh Berry for the punter position with the ball club through the entirety of the 2019 preseason camp before the veteran Berry edged out the rookie. Berryman punted nine times for a 45.8 yard per kick average with a long of 66 yards last preseason with five – or 55.6% - of his punts being downed inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.
A 6-0, 200-pound punter, Berryman is the second former Catamount signed by the Jets over the past few seasons, joining former DL Helva Matungulu (2013-15) who inked a UDFA contract in. He joins Donald Turner (1968-69) who joined the Jets in 1971. Other WCU ties to “Gang Green” include former WCU DL Clyde Simmons who fulfilled a coaching internship with the Jets back in 2010.
A product of Marietta, Ga., Berryman finished his Catamount career with a 43.8 yard per punt average, usurping Ken Hinsley’s (1995-98) previous benchmark of 42.8 average by a full yard. Berryman ranks fourth in program history with 206 career points - matching Anthony Bare (206, 1986-89 – while downing an impressive 82 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line – an average of 40-percent of his punts.
Berryman was a three-time All-Southern Conference selection and twice named All-America at punter. Berryman became just the seventh different punter to lead the Catamounts in seasonal punting average for four-consecutive seasons dating back to 1969 – and the first since Blake Cain (2008-2011). Three of his individual season averages rank inside the top five in program history including his 44.90 yard per kick mark in 2016 which stands as the best in Catamount history.