Masuk linebacker is pumped over Panthers’ chances next fall

Ryan Putnam, number 9, is a starting outside linebacker for the Masuk Panthers. He also played special teams, starting on the kickoff and kick return units.

MONROE, CT — Ryan Putnam, 17, a starting outside linebacker for the Masuk Panthers, is pumping iron and getting noticeably stronger for next season. Though he’s in good shape now, the junior had to overcome serious injuries early in his high school football career.

“I broke my back freshman year. I wasn’t off to a great start,” he recalled. “My season ended after the third game.”

A lower back injury resulted in a fracture to his lumbar spine, an injury that grew steadily worse.

Putnam completed rehab and got to play again his sophomore season, only to tear his quad and groin during the last game against Newtown. “I was done for the whole playoffs,” he said, recalling his disappointment.

“Last year was all good, a few minor injuries but nothing held me back,” he said. “After the injuries, I learned how not to make it happen again.”

Putnam, who played football most of his life, dating back to the Monroe Lions when he was in kindergarten, has been lifting weights since his freshman year. He said lifting helped him learn how the body works, which is a good way to avoid injuries.

“Legs and squats are my favorite thing to do,” he said. “We have an afterschool lift at 2:30 organized with our strength coach.”

Putnam also goes to The Edge in Trumbull to workout with a group of teammates.

On Feb. 1, Putnam, who is 5’11 and 205 pounds, squatted 535 pounds. He not only beat his personal best of 515 pounds from a month earlier, his trainer told him he broke the Masuk school record by five pounds.

He said his personal goal is to squat 600 pounds by the start of next season.

“I’m happy about it,” Putnam said of the record, “but I’m more focused on the team and getting everyone better, not just myself.”

Amid a season of turmoil, in which Head Coach Steve Christy and assistant coach, Eric Giordano, were on leave pending an investigation of the football program, the Panthers showed resiliency, finishing with a 9-3 record, including a 42-21 victory over Cheshire in a quarterfinals game at home on Nov. 28.

The season ended with a tough 35-10 loss to Wilton in a semifinals matchup in the Class MM playoffs.

“For the circumstances we had, we finished good — but that wasn’t our goal,” said Putnam, who was recently named a team captain. “The last three years in a row we made the semis.”

Putnam said he and his teammates are convinced they would have played better with their head coach and his entire staff. Now that Christy is back for one more season, Putnam said he and his teammates are excited to pursue a state championship next fall.

“The team isn’t truly a team unless we have all of our coaches,” he said. “We want our family back.”

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