That sort of evaluation doesn't surprise Bernie. In the Ryan household Matt is the third of four children. (Sister Kate, 26, is a physical therapist, and younger brother John, 17, is a junior quarterback at Penn Charter.) There are also more than 20 cousins living nearby, most of them boys and many of them older. Thus, Matt was always fighting to keep up. "He's always been driven," says Bernie. "And he worked best when he had a lot on the table."
Bernie and husband Mike, who owns a communications cable company, believed that sports were necessary to round out their children's educations. And when the time came—first for Michael and then for Matt—to sign up their boys for team sports, the couple agreed that football was the best option. In football, they reasoned, there was less chance of games being dominated by one player, so Michael and Matt would learn the benefits of teamwork. "We didn't think we were raising stars," says Bernie.
But they were. Michael played football and baseball at Malvern Preparatory School, but because he stood just 6-foot, was not recruited by any Division I--A programs. Matt, on the other hand, was courted by a handful of I-A schools, including Iowa, even though at Penn Charter he was a triple-option quarterback. "I knew I wasn't suited to play as an option quarterback," he says. "I was much more comfortable throwing the ball."
In the six years since the car accident, Michael, who now develops vacation properties along the Jersey shore, has undergone five surgeries on his shattered elbow. He still cannot fully straighten his right arm, a condition that prevents him from throwing a football (a metal plate in his upper arm holds his humerus together) but which has also, he claims, helped improve his golf swing. "It could have been worse," he says with a smile.
Like everyone else, Michael is curious to see what's next for Matt, whom Jagodzinski has compared to former BC star Matt Hasselbeck, now a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles will be tested in October and November when they play Virginia Tech, Florida State, Clemson and Miami over a five-week stretch. There's no telling if, at the end, a BCS berth will be waiting for them. But this much is certain: They have the offense and the quarterback to finally earn one.
Throw Him In
Matt Ryan wasn't on many Heisman lists when the season started, but the statistics for the Boston College quarterback stack up nicely with those of other top passers, some of whom will be candidates for the award.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]