Ryan Ramczyk can't really pinpoint whether he's a few blocks away, around the corner or just down the street. But the New Orleans Saints' star right tackle knows he's approaching being the player he wants to be.
"I think I'm close," Ramczyk said Wednesday, June 30. "I think I'm in the neighborhood, but there's always room for improvement. I've said it before: You go out and you play an NFL game, you're never going to play a perfect game. But you're always striving for the perfect game. So there's always room to improve."
The Saints have been more than pleased with what they've seen so far, and the organization punctuated its happiness Wednesday by signing Ramczyk to a five-year contract extension, assuring that the three-time All-Pro will continue protecting quarterbacks and creating space for running backs.
"It's obviously a huge relief to get this off my shoulders and remain a Saint," said Ramczyk, the second of New Orleans' two first-round picks (No. 32 overall) in 2017. "That was my No. 1 thing, I wanted to stay a Saint. So (I'm) very, very happy with it."
The team can be happy that Ramczyk loves football. As in, loved it enough to leave it, and come back to it, and become the best right tackle in the NFL.
It's a well-known story by now: Ramczyk enrolled at Division II Winona State in 2012, didn't play, took classes at Mid-State Technical College after leaving Winona State, enrolled at Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2015, played two years, then transferred to the University of Wisconsin in 2016 and started 14 games at left tackle.
"I took a year off, and that year off, that was tough," he said. "You come from such a structured regimen schedule, to taking a few college courses. I truly just missed the game. I missed being around the guys. I honestly just missed the game, and that's what brought me back to it.
"I wasn't in it for the wrong reasons – I went to play at a Division III school and I think that's where a lot of guys go to play when they just love the game. That was ultimately what pushed me to get back, was the love of the game."
Since, Ramczyk, in four seasons, quickly has crafted one of the most decorated careers for an offensive lineman in franchise history.
"It's hard, because it's obviously the NFL and a lot of times it doesn't last long for guys," he said. "So for me, it was kind of just, let's go into this year (in '17) with everything I have, put everything I have into this coming year, and fortunately now I was able to sign this extension.
"My mentality is not really going to change. I've got to prepare like I've always prepared every year, and really just go to work. But it is a relief that I've signed this extension."
As a rookie, Ramczyk started games at each tackle position and played every offensive snap. He only has missed one start (in 2018) and hasn't yet played less than 95 percent of the offensive snaps in a season.
"I think it's one of those things that, you're not really going to understand the magnitude or how this all has played out until I'm done playing," he said. "For me, it's just surreal. Right now, I'm very happy.
"I think you always have something to prove. My situation, I got kind of a crazy backstory and I've always believed in myself and pushed myself, and that's not going to change. I always want to be the best I can possibly be. I don't think I'm there yet. In my mind there's always more, there's always room to get better."
That's the single goal that Ramczyk says has driven him, and will continue to drive him.
"I think I've gotten to where I've gotten by fine-tuning my craft each and every week, and just working on little, small details and kind of let the titles handle themselves, or whatever you want to call them," he said. "I'm just focusing on getting better and bettering myself."