In our fifth installment in this series we were able to catch up with former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker DeMeco Ryans. To get the full transcript of our interview, click here:
When you talk about athletes setting the standard, no one epitomizes that more than former Alabama All-American DeMeco Ryans. In a day and age where athletes are scrutinized more than ever, Ryans has always managed to be mentioned among those who are doing the right thing and setting the right example for everyone associated with him.
Ryans hails from Bessemer, Alabama. The town outside of Birmingham has been known to produce some of football’s most prominent figures with most notably being Bo Jackson, and recently the NFL’s first overall pick Jameis Winston. There in Bessemer, Ryans never envisioned he would grow up to be a star football player, especially since his favorite sport growing up was baseball. After some convincing from his coach, Ryans began playing football in 8th grade and from there, his love for the sport grew into something that would eventually change his and his family’s life forever.
For someone who is now one of the game’s most respected linebackers, it was not always that easy for Ryans who was considered by some to be too small to play big-time college football. He was not touted as an elite player coming out of high school, and many of the top schools overlooked him which lit a fire that continued to burn throughout his years at Alabama.
Blessed to receive a scholarship offer from his childhood favorite school was a dream come true for Ryans. He knew he wanted to make the most of his opportunity and he did that by continuing to work on his game and work as hard as possible to get noticed. His opportunity came when he was only one of two freshmen from his class to play in 2002, and the experience assisted him in having his breakout season the following year. While many Tide fans may have never heard much about Ryans up to that point, his 25 tackle performance against the Arkansas Razorbacks most certainly sent shockwaves throughout the fan base which continued to reverberate until his time was up.
Along with his football exploits, coaches raved about Ryans’ commitment to eduacation. Playing football at a program like Alabama requires a great deal of focus, but for players like Ryans who went above and beyond to ensure his education was first, he more than exceeded the minimum required semester hours and was able to graduate early. According to Ryans, “Education was always important to me because no one in my immediate family graduated from a four-year university. I really wanted to set the example and that drove me to push myself on the academic side.”
The example that Ryans set on and off the field allowed him to be named captain and in 2005, he led arguably one of the greatest defenses in Alabama history and a few unfortunate incidents away from a possible national championship appearance. I’m sure that team would have fared OK without Ryans given the amount of leadership, but his presence only magnified their greatness and he was a viable component to their success.
Things are quite similar in the NFL as well. As a leader for the Houston Texans, they built themselves into one of the more respectable teams and defenses in the AFC division. Now with the Philadelphia Eagles, he continues to lead and his value was never felt more when he was lost for the season midway last year, and the defense suffered mightily due to his absence.
For over a decade now, Ryans has long set the standard as a model citizen, player, and teammate. What he has accomplished on and off the field is a reflection of the character he has exhibited that is backed up by family, friends, coaches, and teammates. While some may have forgotten the teams he played on at Alabama, nobody has forgotten the great player which pales in comparison to him as a person.