MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes, when you’re trying to learn what makes someone tick inside, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to look at him from the outside in, but instead to ask him how he views himself from the inside out.
This is especially true with a football player like Sean Ryan, the late-blooming wide receiver who transferred to West Virginia after his freshman season at Temple.
You ask him how he sees himself, and he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.
“I’m a third-down guy. I want to move the chains on third down,” he says.
That tells you a whole lot more about the person than the football player.
To catch the ball over the middle, to move the chains, you have to be fearless and have a large desire to be THE MAN rather a man.
“I’m not afraid to catch the ball over the middle. I’m not afraid to make a big play when it’s needed,” he said. “It’s dangerous. Football has its dangers, but that’s what makes the game interesting, that’s what makes it great. I just want the ball. If I have to go across the middle to get it, that’s what I’ll do. It’s not about being scared. You’re here to do a job, to perform. You have to execute.”
To Sean Ryan, that is more than the way he plays the game. It’s the way he lives his life.
His is not the normal football story.
He is an inner-city kid out of the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. Not normally fertile football ground, but that was the sport he loved. He says his basketball game was good, but “obviously not good enough, because that’s why I’m here playing football.”
His dad started a team for him and others in his neighborhood.
“It was rough, but we made it work. There’s not a lot of football fields in New York, but we made it work. It got a lot of other kids to buy in. They saw I wanted it, he wanted it and we made it fun,” he said.
So, following his career in high school, he jumped at his first offer, from Temple.
He was talented but didn’t know how to apply his talent.
“Through my high school years and my year at Temple, I struggled with immaturity, not really being consistent and not knowing how to embrace the role of being a factor in the game … being the IT factor, being that guy,” he said. “These last few years I’ve grown and accept my role and what I bring to the table.”
Fortunately, he was mature enough to want to improve.
“I wanted to stack days. I wanted to put weeks together and months together, not just a few days,” he said. “I was always the kind of player who would have a good month or two, but going through the years you find that’s not good enough. If you want to be a great one or be on a great team, you will be with great players, and I wanted to fit in with those guys.
“I was seeing the guys I was hanging with on a daily basis and the success they were having. It wasn’t just the success they were having on the field; it was the way they were living outside the facility, the way they were carrying themselves in front of people and the way they were leading other guys.
“I wanted that. I wanted to feel what that felt like, so I took the steps to be a mature person.”
The best thing that happened for him was his transfer from Philadelphia and Temple to Morgantown, although that wasn’t the original intention.
“I won’t say I wanted that, but I needed it,” he said of the move to a smaller city. “I needed the structure, to be in a small hometown kind of place where everybody knows everybody and everyone is cheering you and as soon as you step out the door everyone supports you. That was the biggest thing I saw when I got here … they are for you; they are for the guys.
“It was crazy, The best thing about Morgantown is they accepted me with open arms. I love the fans. They take good care of us.”
It has allowed him to finish off his growth process.
“I’m just reaching my potential,” Ryan said. “I haven’t really reached it yet. I’ve done a lot of growing and lot of self-evaluation over the last year. Seeing the changes I’ve made in myself and my body, I’ve just opened the door a little bit. I’m figuring out if I buy in 100% everything will go the way I want it to go.”
Last week, he scored his first touchdown at WVU.
“Oh man, you work so hard for it,” he said. “Every game you line up to score a touchdown and you go out there with the intention of scoring a touchdown. If it doesn’t come, you’re not disappointed, but you know you could have done better. To go out and get my first one in front of these fans, it felt great.”
Now, he hopes he can add to it against Virginia Tech this week and Oklahoma the next.