Connecticut NFL Draft Prospect OT, Mike Ryan Interview
Mike Ryan went to University of Connecticut. While at UConn, he started 32 games, playing in 34. He was best known for his versatility and agility on the offensive line. In 2010, he was nominated to receive First-Team All Big-East honors, and in 2011, he received second-team All Big-East honors. He is known for his versatility on the offensive line, and can play both guard positions as well as both tackles. MR talks about everything he can in this exclusive interview. This interview was conducted before the 2012 NFL Draft. [UPDATE: He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals after the NFL Draft.]
Mike Ryan : This is Mike Ryan, University of Connecticut, Offensive Line, and this is http://www.ProInterviews.org.
Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with www.ProInterviews.org, www.facebook.com/ProInterviews and www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Mike Ryan. Ryan went to University of Connecticut. He started 32 games, played in 34 while at UConn. He was best known for his versatility and agility on the offensive line. In 2010, he was nominated to receive First-Team All Big-East honors, and in 2011, he received second-team All Big-East honors. Here is the interview with future NFL offensive lineman, Mike Ryan.
Strauss : How do you connect with your fans?
Ryan : I pride myself on being a real down-to-earth guy. If anybody came up to me and wanted an autograph or anything like that, I am more than happy to accommodate the people who root for me when I play. Just the other day, a couple of kids across from my house–I was walking in and they asked me for an autograph. I got them three of my UConn hats and signed them for each one of the little kids and just gave it to them.
Strauss : Do you plan to get a Twitter or Facebook?
Ryan : I had Facebook. I am raised in an old school part of Pennsylvania and I was on Facebook for a while and I just got rid of it. There were too many distractions. I didn’t need it as a kid growing up. I could people if I want to talk to my friends, so I just got rid of it.
Strauss : How did you actually start playing football?
Ryan : Growing up, I played soccer for about six years until I was old enough to play contact football. I always watched it as a kid and always played outside with my friends. We used to throw the football on the street all the time or we would go up to the park. As soon as I was old enough, I played. I was always playing one or two grades ahead of what I should have been playing. I play one year of Junior PeeWees and then, the next year I was up in the middle level and the year after that, I was playing the highest level with the older kids.
Strauss : What was high school football like for you?
Ryan : I went to Marian Catholic near my home. That is just a football school. Year round, we’d lift. My group of friends–we always wanted to win a District Championship ever since we got there. We went undefeated as freshman. When I got there, it really is about football. That’s what I love about the area that I live in. You can compare it to those movies about Texas where the whole town sits down for games and stuff.
Strauss : How many people would go to a game?
Ryan : We were a single-A school so I only had about 56 kids in my graduating class. I’d say during our district playoff game, we had close to five thousand people in our stadium. To me, I played in the BCS game when we played Oklahoma, and I still think that game for the District Championship was, in my eyes, was a little bit, not bigger, but I was more excited maybe. I don’t know how to really put it, but that was fun playing the District Championship game in front of five thousand people.
Strauss : What was your recruiting experience like?
Ryan : I had sort of gone through it before with my older brother when he was getting recruited. Going through with him, I sort of knew what to expect and what to look to when I was being recruited.
Strauss : Why did you choose UConn?
Ryan : UConn was the only school that offered me, but other than that, I loved the coaching staff. Coach Edsall and their offensive line coach especially, Coach Foley. Once I got up there, he takes the time with the younger players and try to develop them and I developed a really good friendship with my offensive line coach. Although this is the only place that I got offered when I got up there, it seemed it was a perfect fit, and it ended up working out the best for myself.
Strauss : Once you got to UConn, what was that transition like?
Ryan : Coming from high school, I was mainly on a run-first high school team, and we didn’t play many 4-3 defenses. The guy that I had to block most of the time was right in front of me. Coming from that, and then going to college defense where everybody on the field is just as good as you are. I struggled in my freshman year and a little bit of my redshirt freshman year, but came into my own in my redshirt sophomore year.
Strauss : What was it like to actually step on the field for your first game at UConn?
Ryan : I think the first game that I was playing in, we were playing Baylor, and I was switching in and out with left tackle at that time, Dan Ryan. You’re nervous when you first go in because you’re not sure. You practice all the time with your own players, but you never really know what a game is going to feel like. After the first play, the butterflies were gone, and I knew that this is what I wanted to do for hopefully a good portion of my life.
Strauss : When did you get actually your first start at UConn?
Ryan : It was against Pittsburgh at Pitt. That was real big because getting recruited, I’ve gone out to Pittsburgh’s Junior Day and everything and the coach had told me during recruiting that they figured me more of a guard than a tackle. I felt pretty good to go there playing tackle. I know I did pretty well for myself against the guy who is an All-Big East performer. From my registered sophomore, I played eight games including the bowl game.
Strauss : What was the ball game like?
Ryan : That bowl game was played in the Papa John’s. We were playing an SEC school in South Carolina. It was exciting. A lot of people had told me it was cold, but I really couldn’t feel it. I was more focused on the game at that point. It was cool playing in a bowl game, especially to win a bowl game was pretty cool.
Strauss : You played right and left tackle, what is that like for you? How much preparation actually goes into, for you at least, to be able to switch mid-season?
Ryan : The year before with my junior year, I have started out at Right Tackle. I got to playing Left Tackle at the end of my sophomore year. It wasn’t that big of a transition because I had worked at Right Tackle, the whole summer. I feel a bit more natural at left, but I think that is only because I had played there most of my career at UConn. Everything just feels more natural. I played exactly Right Tackle in high school, so it really wasn’t that hard of a transition.
Strauss : I read somewhere that you caught a pass from a 2-point conversion…
Ryan : Yes, we were playing Rutgers. Actually, it was scary sitting there at an offensive lineman in a critical situation. It felt pretty cool that Coach Moorhead had faith in me to catch the ball and make it into the end zone. They called it back for a forward pass, but there were a lot of people telling me that was the loudest that stadium has gotten in a while.
Strauss : What was it like to get them all in your hands? Most offensive linemen wish they could.
Ryan : It felt like everything was in super slow motion. Rolling out, forward catching it, getting into the end zone. It just felt it took forever, but it was pretty cool that they called my number in an important situation and I got in. I couldn’t help that the ball was thrown forward. Afterwards, it sucks to have it taken away because I haven’t scored a point in organized football since I’ve been playing. So to get that, at the college level, and then, they take it away which sucked. But, it’s pretty cool to have the play call to you and to be able to capitalize on it.
Strauss : Were you first hand all Big East this year too this year or was it just the year before?
Ryan : Yes. I was First-Team All-Big East my junior year and Second-Team this past year.
Strauss : What is it like thing to be distinguished and recognized in the Big East?
Ryan : My junior year felt pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting anything. I saw our kicker, Dave Teggart at the lunch hall, and he said, “Congrats, son. You’re named first team Big East.” I thought he was joking with me. It was cool to be recognized for what I did as a junior and even as a senior. I was a little disappointed in Second-Team, but it was still good to get recognized for what you do on the field.
Strauss : Who do you think the best defensive line competition you’ve faced in college for?
Ryan : There were a lot of good players. I went up against [Jason] Pierre-Paul a couple of times. [Greg] Romeus is good. All of the Big-East defensive ends that I have played against were all very good. I couldn’t tell you who the best of all of them were.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite block that you’ve ever had on somebody?
Ryan : A couple of my favorite blocks are either when I was pulling on the tackle trap, and getting up on the linebacker and hitting them, and pancaking them. I always liked when we ran our Power and we ran a double team up to the linebacker. I always loved throwing the D-Tackle out of the way, and getting up to the linebacker and making a big hole.
Strauss : What was it like this past year for Paul Pasqualoni? What was it like to come in this past year and how much impact did he have on you?
Ryan : He had a huge impact. I feel that he got me definitely me ready for the next level. We did everything this past year from him coming from an NFL team and Coach DeLeone coming from an NFL team. We had sort-of an NFL style camp. We were doing installs for the plays. I felt that he prepared us mentally for hopefully what we have to do for the next years.
Strauss : You weren’t invited to the Combine. Were you disappointed at all? How’d you look at it?
Ryan : I was disappointed at first. I tried to use that to my advantage and show the people at my Pro Day. I was not invited to the combine, I can put numbers with the best of them. I am not just a 335 lbs lumbering Right Tackle. I am athletic. I have played basketball my whole life. I wanted to show at my Pro Day that I could run, that I was quick, and that I was agile.
Strauss : What was your Pro Day like?
Ryan : It was good. I had a good experience. It is always good even after competition, every time you want to go up you want to beat the numbers that were posted by other linemen. That’s what my mindset was going in. I wanted to be in the top five for people who went the combine. I wanted to be in those top five performers with my number.
Strauss : How do you grade your Pro Day performance?
Ryan : I thought I did well. I didn’t reach my expectations in a couple of things, but I shot for the stars. In my mind, I didn’t reach it, but I still had pretty good numbers.
Strauss : You benched 32 reps. Did you expect more or last night? Because I know that’s very impressive.
Ryan : I wanted to do more because I have done thirty in the late summer before the season. I wanted to get up in the mid to high thirties, but even thirty-two after I was done with it. It’s a good number especially how long my arms are.
Strauss : Do you think offensive lineman needs to do vertical?
Ryan : I think the vertical and the broad jump just show explosion. All of that stuff is they teach you tricks to gain a couple of inches with your vertical jump and everything. I went up there and didn’t try to cheat the system, but I just wanted to see how high and how explosive I could be.
Strauss : Do you have any plans for draft day?
Ryan : No. One of the days, my brother, a couple of my closest friends, and I are all are going to golf at a local course. Other than that, I am going to try and not watch the draft as much as possible, and just try and go about my day, and hopefully I will get a call.
Strauss : If a team called you up on draft day? They said, ‘We have this pick in the seventh round. Why should we take you over the next offensive lineman, or any player really, why should we take you?” What’s the best answer you have for them?
Ryan : Two things. I think I growing up I just have an ultra-competitive attitude towards everything. My daughter is sort of the same way. She wants to beat me in races and that’s how I was. Everything I did, whether it was playing a video game, or fishing, or playing basketball. I always wanted to beat out that person next to me. I have that competitive drive. The other thing is my versatility, I played both left and right tackle in college, and in the two all-star games I played in, I played left and right guard. I thought I did them pretty well.
Strauss : Being versatile is very important in the NFL so you can adjust. How do you think your versatility will help you succeed and make it in the NFL?
Ryan : Most NFL teams carry eight or nine offense lineman, and if you can show that you can be a swing player like both guards—it just adds value. Really, it’s unlikely that I could play a lot of special teams. If they want me to get in there, obviously I’d go full out. I played punt as a personal protector in college. That is more of the linebacker, wide receiver, defensive end-type special teams. They are fast and everything, but my versatility, on the offensive line. I could probably play center if you give me a week at it, and I think that just shows that they could put me in multiple uses.
Strauss : If you compared your game to someone in the NFL, who would it be?
Ryan : To be honest with you, I haven’t been able to watch a lot of NFL games in the past couple of years. I’ll catch one here and there, but usually we’re in meetings going over the game from before or we’re in practice. I haven’t seen enough of the offensive lineman at the next level to give you a comparison.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite number? Is #71 your favorite number that you’ve worn?
Ryan : A lot of people have that number that they just love. I will take any number, just put a uniform on me and some pads and let me hit some people.
Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
Ryan : I have no clue. Wow. Moose tracks. To be honest with you, that was my favorite ice cream growing up, so I have no clue how I can compare to that. I don’t know. Fudge ripple, peanut butter cups, it’s a versatile ice cream. It’s a candy and ice cream mixed together, that’s how I play offensive line.
Strauss : For someone who wants to play D1 football like yourself, and then try to make it to the NFL, what’s the best advice you have for them?
Ryan : To take whatever you think how hard you worked, and try and go above and beyond that. I remember as a freshman, one of our coaches told us to “Raise our hands the highest that we can raise it.” and everybody raised their hands. Then he said, “Now I want you to raise it higher.” Everybody in the room was able to raise it just a little bit higher. That is what I took away. However hard you think you could go, you push yourself to go that little extra.
Strauss : Is there anything else you want to tell your fans that we haven’t really talked about?
Ryan : Just for people to know I am down-to-earth guy, and I love football just like the next person. I grew up with it in my house. I just love the game of football and that’s why I am trying to do it hopefully for a couple more years until it runs out. Because after that, you’ll never get the same feeling back that you had whether it’s in grade school, high school, or college.
Strauss : Thanks so much for your time, Mike. I really appreciate it.
Ryan : Oh no. I appreciate you taking the time to do the interview with me like I appreciate you shedding some light then people will get to know me more.
Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Mike Ryan. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you leave your comments below as well! Please check out my website www.prointerviews.org for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ProInterviews, and follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me.
->Here are the personal questions that Mike Ryan answered.<-
Strauss : If you can be anyone who would it be and why?
Ryan : I would say probably my Uncle Jamie. He died in a car crash before I was born and from what my dad told me, he was a real cool guy and he’s probably the one person I wish I could have met.
Strauss : If you end up not making it into the NFL, what would you want to do?
Ryan : If my shot was completely over… If they told me, “Listen, you’re a good college player but you can’t play in the NFL.” I would go back and maybe get a masters in English and Coach, try and share what I learn from football to the next generation of kids trying to play it.
Strauss : Who is your childhood star growing up?
Ryan : My favorite football player growing up would have been Emmitt Smith. I was a big Cowboys fan growing up. I also looked up to my dad out of football and even in football. He taught me a lot of life lessons. I was lucky to learn from him without having to go through it the hard way.
Strauss : Your dad coached football or played or what?
Ryan : He coached me and he coached my older brother. He was real active in all the sports that we played in. The first lessons I learned of competition and things of that nature came from him being grown up in the household.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite TV show?
Ryan : I sort of watch Rescue Me on Netflix. I watch the Eastbound and Down on HBO. I like SportsCenter. It’s probably the most time I spend on one channel, ESPN/SportsCenter.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Ryan : Dumb and Dumber and Step Brothers. I like all kinds of movies, those are probably my two top, favorite list.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite type of pie?
Ryan : My mom always made pudding pie for Thanksgiving. I always loved that.
Strauss : If you could choose, what would your last meal on earth be?
Ryan : Oh man, that’s a tough one, but Homemade chicken pot pie. My childhood best friend’s mom used to always make it. It was always a treat every time we have it.
Strauss : Do you have a drink you’d have with that?
Ryan : We have a small ice tea company based out near where we live. It’s called Guers and they make a green Tea that I drink by the gallon.
Strauss : Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Ryan : Not really. The only thing I do before every game is after the morning meetings, I take a shower before we leave for the stadium, but other than that I don’t do anything specific, listen to music, stuff like that.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite song you listen to before the game?
Ryan : No, not really. It switches from year to year depending on what comes out.
Strauss : What was last year?
Ryan : I have a playlist I make before every year for the past three years. Last year, I got into Rage Against the Machine later in the year and I was listening to Lil’ Wayne’s new album at that time. So I have a mix of rock and rap.
Strauss : If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Ryan : That’s a tough one. I think to fly. I always thought it would be cool to fly as a kid, and I think that’s the one super power I would go with.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite author since you’re an English major?
Ryan : Dan Brown. The guy who wrote the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons. I like him as an author because he brings up a lot of current events and real facts and sometimes you get lost. It seems like it could be real and at the same time, it’s still a fictional story. I just like the way he writes. I like the way he incorporate real places, real people, and real events. You reading the book you sort of for a second there you try and catch yourself, ‘I wonder if this could be happening.’
Strauss : Thank you for answering these personal questions.