Matthew Ryan doesn’t focus much on Rob Ryan, the football coach.
He is all about Rob Ryan, the dad.
Matthew Ryan, a senior lineman for Newman, knows that his dad’s dismissal as the Saints’ defensive coordinator on Monday is the ugly part of the business.
He’s more interested in the Rob Ryan who surprised him on Senior Night two weeks ago, meeting him at midfield before Newman’s regular season finale played on a Thursday.
“I had no idea he was coming,” Matthew said with a big old grin on his face. “My dad usually has to work on Thursdays. He had to leave at halftime, but it was so good seeing him. I couldn’t ask for anything more from a dad. We have a close relationship.”
The two spend a lot of time together, doing everything fom just talking football to editing his highlight videos to helping with the recruiting process. But the two have more than football in common.
All it takes is one glance at the long, shoulder-length hair flowing from under the helmet of the 6-foot-3, 320-pound guy sporting the No. 78 Newman jersey.
“Dad is definitely an influence on the hair,” Matthew said. “You see how good his hair looks. I decided to let mine grow out and I have these locks now and it feels pretty sweet. It’s definitely some sweet flow, right?”
Being the son of a guy who many in this football-crazed city blame for the Saints’ woes this season could be difficult for most teenagers. Ryan seems to handle it well.
“I try to stay off social media,” he said. “Whatever happens is his business, and I have to focus on mine right now. I worry less about my dad because I know he will be OK. Right now I need to keep on rolling for me to try to get myself some more recognition and help my team win.”
Newman plays in the second round of the playoffs Friday, hosting Riverside in the Division III playoffs. It’ll be the Greenies second shot at Riverside after losing to the top-seeded Rebels 41-14 in the regular season.
If the Greenies pull off an upset, Ryan, who plays center, will likely play a big part. He’s been just as focused this week as all season, despite his dad’s firing.
“He knows its part of the process,” Newman coach Nelson Stewart said. “He has been around it a long time and understands that it’s a tough profession.”
Ryan is in his first year playing center after playing on the defensive line his first two seasons.
“Moving to center, he has been unbelievable,” Newman coach Nelson Stewart said. “He has been our most consistent interior lineman. He is a good run blocker, a good pass blocker and he can pull. That’s his natural position. There’s no question he can play at the next level. He has a good nose for the game.”
And he should.
He’s been around it his whole life.
“Ever since I was born,” he said.
Football has taken him all over the country. He was born in Oklahoma when his dad was coaching at Oklahoma State. He’s lived in Boston, Oakland, Cleveland and Dallas before coming to New Orleans and enrolling at Newman as a sophomore.
“He came in and was really raw,” Stewart said. “We got him in the weight room and he worked really hard. He squats 500 pounds. He comes from a very good family and is very humble in everything he does. He is just a great kid to coach.”
He has a scholarship offer from Southeastern Louisiana and is getting interest from Tulane, San Diego State and Mississippi State. His eyes light up when he talked about the Mississippi State’s interest, the most he is getting from a Southeastern Conference school.
“You have to have a certain nastiness to go there, and I think with my blue collar attitude I can certainly bring that to him,” Ryan said.
Wherever he decides to go, his father will be there to help him make a decision.
If things go the way Matthew hopes, it’ll be just as good as the decision he said his dad made when the Ryans moved from Dallas to New Orleans three years ago.
“I’ve loved it here,” he said. “New Orleans has been a great city to me. The school has been great. I finally found a place where I fit in. It’s been an awesome time here.”