But it’s Ryan’s off-field makeup and his ability to deal with success that set him up to possibly become one of the league’s transcendent stars. Like a Peyton Manning. Or a Tom Brady.
“I believe that Matt’s maturity level, intelligence and focus would allow him to transition into that type of ‘role’ if his success on the field allowed it,” said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. “I believe he’d be very capable of handling it in stride and keeping things in perspective. That’s something I feel very confident about with Matt. That ability to have a sense of levity and keep things in perspective.”
The first thing that helps catapult a player star to “superstar” is the football. He has to be one of the very best at his position, able to carry a team and, if not win championships, certainly contend for them. But after that, the player’s likeability comes into play.
Bill Musgrave, Ryan’s quarterbacks coach in Atlanta, believes Ryan has that. During his career as a player, Musgrave backed up both Steve Young in San Francisco and John Elway in Denver.
“Matt comes across as mortal, just a regular person which is something both John and Steve did and that makes people like them and gravitate to them even more,” said Musgrave. “He’s been raised right. You can sense he’s a pretty worldly kid and that he’s got a sense of humor. Doubt he’s changed since he was 16 in the way he sees the world. It was the same with Steve and John. Their heart remained kind of pure even with all the attention.”
Ryan, predictably, isn’t ready to talk about superstardom and being mentioned in the same breath as Brady or Manning.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he said when asked about his status in the galaxy of NFL stars. “I don’t covet it. It’s more important that we do well and those things will follow from them. Certainly, I’d like to be thought of the way they are but that celebrity comes from the success they’ve had and the success they’ve had comes from work they’ve put in.”
The work side of things doesn’t appear to be an issue for Ryan.
Asked to compare Ryan’s preparation to Young and Elway, Musgrave said, “Steve and John both prepared differently On game day, John saw things defenses were doing that our coaches didn’t see. He was incredible in that way, making reads and adjustments. Steve was very attentive all week and and a grinder in terms of knowing the game plan. Matt can do things on the fly and rolls with the punches very well on game day but he also has that work ethic during the week. Football-wise, he can process things in a split second. He has tremendous depth perception, can ascertain angles and deliver the football to very difficult places.”
And that’s what Musgrave sees after Ryan’s played one 16-game season and a playoff game. Entering his second season – a year when players often make a huge jump, Ryan feels even more at home in Atlanta.
“I’m so far ahead of where I was,” he said. “There were so many things last year, just coming in, demands on my time media-wise, learning, off-the-field things like getting settled in a new area, and just absorbing everything about playing the position. I really feel more comfortable this year and being here in Atlanta is great.”
Atlanta isn’t a city that lives and dies with the fortunes of its NFL entry. But in a way, that makes it ripe territory for Ryan.
“I believe that there is what people call ‘southern hospitality’ here,” he noted. “People are appreciative, respectful and supportive and you really want to do well for them. You’d want to do well anyway, but there’s a feeling of appreciation (for the fans).”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“His father, Mike, who I respect a great deal is definitely a positive for Matt,” said Dimitroff. “I said to (Falcons owner Arthur Blank), ‘If we were drafting fathers, this is a father we’d want to draft in the first round. There’s really a great synchronicity between the two and you can tell there’s a lot of support there and that they help to make sure everything’s in check.”
Dimitroff believes that’s a primary reason Ryan is so well-adjusted in such a prominent role.
“I believe what Matt covets more than anything is to be part of a perennial contender and to be one of the main cogs in the wheel on this team,” said Dimitroff. “He really believes in that. I believe that’s what Tom Brady is about. I believe that’s what Peyton is about. Matt believes that, by virtue of the success of the team, the rewards and accolades will come his way. He’s not out there trying to drum up or have other people drum up ridiculous marketing schemes to keep his name out there. Matt is very, very particular about that. He’s not selling his soul during this growth period. Matt is very mindful of paying attention and keeping his focus on football.”
And when a star takes care of that, his chances of becoming a “superstar” can only go up.
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
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