Fishing. Boating. Scuba diving. Snorkeling. These are the activities that one associates with the Florida Keys. Thomas Ryan is looking to change that perception with football.
Ryan, a rising junior defensive end, hails from Marathon, which is a town half-way down the Keys consisting of a chain of seven islands. The 6'4, 240 pounder has put himself on the recruiting map by rarely leaving the field playing both DE and OT. He is just coming into his body and showed tremendous improvement from sophomore to junior season. Ryan registered 80 tackles and 12 sacks while making 15 tackles for loss. His best attributes include a non-stop motor, great closing speed, and surprising athleticism.
"My biggest assets are that I am physical and strong," Ryan explained. "I improve with each play in each game."
Ryan moved down to Marathon from Long Island, NY, in first grade with his family. He played football throughout middle school, but did not play as a freshmen. As a sophomore he was honorable mention All-State(Florida All-State teams come out next week for 2008). His first love was baseball, but his play on the football field is what drew rave reviews.
Boasting a 3.1 GPA and 890 on the SAT (taken once), Ryan said, "I can do better on the SAT and will take it again." Academics are very important to him and Criminal Justice, Sports Medicine, and Education are three future majors that piqued his interest.
Ryan received letters from just about every school east of the Mississippi and is truly wide open as to his favorites. He diligently responds to all of his mail and is looking forward to attending the 'Down and Dirty Camp' with at least three University camps this summer. "I want a chance to show everyone what I am capable of doing. I think I can play anywhere and want to go up against the best competition out there," explained Ryan.
It was hard for Ryan to single out five schools at this early stage, but he mentioned these:
- Vanderbilt: "Great education. I am interested in seeing Nashville, the total package of SEC football and academics."
- Florida: "They just won the National Championship, and they are my favorite team in the state."
- Clemson: "Clemson produces outstanding defensive linemen and have one of the great atmospheres in college football."
- Alabama: "Great football program. I am a big fan of Coach Saban, the history, the tradition; I love the attacking style of defense."
- South Florida: "I just like the football program. I really think they are close to winning the Big East title, and I would want to be a part of that."
These are just five of the over 30 schools who are in contact with Thomas right now.
While the Keys are technically in the state of Florida, the locals consider it 'separate' from the mainland. Ryan laughed about a local bait shop owner, "Oh yeah, he is a big Michigan fan, he tells me that is where I should go. And honestly, I don't mind the cold; I am very interested in them as well." Miami would be the closest school to the Keys, but Thomas said, "I have never really been a fan of Miami, I am not sure I would fit in there, I am not a big city kind of guy."
We talked about his size and future position, "I feel like I am a defensive end, that is what I want to play, but I will listen to coaches who might want to play me at offensive tackle. I respect their opinion and if that is where they think I am best, then that is where I am going to play. I really just want to find the school where I fit in with the team and University, where the academics are strong, I will work as hard as anyone."
Coming off a 7-3 campaign this year, Ryan thinks Marathon can make some noise next year, "I really like my team mates; we have a good group. I think we might be in Pahokee's classification now, that would be a fun team to play against. They can really play some football."
Watching his sophomore and then his junior film, it is apparent that his best days are ahead of him. He is working hard this summer on core strength with added flexibility. Like all high school defensive linemen, he is raw in some areas, but the package of size, athleticism, upside, and academics should vault Ryan up to be one of the most coveted prospects in the Sunshine state next year.