Making Eastern proud: Logan Ryan doesn’t forget his roots

Read about NFL standout Logan Ryan's days playing Eastern Vikings football through the eyes of his coaches.

Logan+Ryan%27s+Patriots%27s+%2326+jersey+hangs+in+the+main+lobby+of+his+alma+mater.

Matt

Logan Ryan's Patriots's #26 jersey hangs in the main lobby of his alma mater.

  Before he was a two time Super Bowl champion, All-American cornerback, and third round pick of the New England Patriots, Logan Ryan was one of us. 

   He was an Eastern Viking.

  While at Eastern, Ryan was a standout player on both sides of the ball: a star at both quarterback and cornerback. His play on the field earned him a scholarship to Rutgers University as a four star recruit and the number thirty-two cornerback prospect in the entire nation. Any way you shake it, he was a stud.

  When you talk to his former coaches, they all speak highly of his work ethic, leadership, and mental fortitude. 

  Ryan looked up to former Eastern and Penn State star Adam Taliaferro. He wanted to follow in his footsteps. Former Eastern football head coach Dan Spittal said, “He idolized Adam Taliaferro, who played for the 1999 11-1 Vikings. He was the first big star at Eastern, and Logan idolized him and wanted to be like him.” Spittal added that that team and those players were “hard workers, who worked 12 months a year and never took a day off.” To be like Taliaferro, he was going to have to work extremely hard. Ryan was just that. 

  Mr. Jason Hill, Ryan’s defensive backs coach, echoed Coach Spittal’s assessment of Ryan’s work ethic saying his work was “phenomenal.” 

  “To this day he had one of the most impressive work ethics that I’ve ever seen,” said Hill. 

  Ryan was a student of the game and impressed coaches with his mental preparation at such a young age. His leadership was second to none. “He was one of the best leaders to ever come through. He was consistent on and off the field and an ambassador of the athletic program,” said Coach Hill. 

  “He wasn’t vocal, but he was well respected and a player that the younger guys up to,” said Coach Spittal. 

  From the very second he stepped onto the field as a four-teen year old in 2005, Ryan’s talent was evident. “From the time he walked in as a freshman, you could tell he was special,” said Ryan’s quarterback’s coach, Coach Dave Dawson. 

  Coach Spittal knew he had something special early on. Speaking at Ryan’s Eastern Hall of Fa

me induction, former Athletic Director Dr. Tellerico recalled an interaction with Coach Spittal in the lunchroom. 

  “See that skinny kid over there? He’s going to be the next great one at Eastern,” Spitall told Tellerico.

  Ryan had the traits needed to be a big time player, including athleticism, height, and all the mental capabilities, but Coach Spittal’s only worry was about his weight. He was small, weighing only about 170 pounds. But he got to Rutgers he put on weight and now weighs close to 200 pounds. 

  As a junior, Coach Hill viewed him as a player with the potential to get a scholarship and play at a high level in college. But being honest, Hill did not envision what Ryan would become. “I wish I could say it, but I didn’t realize his junior year that he would be a professional football player and playing at the level he is at now,” said Hill with a smile on his face. 

   Ryan played quarterback because he was one of the best athletes on the team. In high school it is common to take the most athletic player and get the ball in his hands. Coach Spittal did just that. Spittal described him as an adequate passer, but a smart player who understood the offense. 

  One play in particular stood out to Coach Spittal. “The very first play on his highlight reel was a thrown ball from him that was tipped by the receiver and intercepted in the red zone. The kid took off down the sideline and Logan chased him all the way across the field and made the tackle inside the 10 yard line,” said Spittal. He estimated that Ryan ran over 100 yards to make the tackle. 

  In a testament to his mental fortitude, Ryan turned in one of his best performances in a playoff game versus Mainland. “The students from Mainland were heckling him with signs and inappropriate actions on his way out to the field,” said Coach Hill. The Vikings came back late in that game in part due to a phenomenal play by Ryan. “This just showed how Logan dealt with adversity,” said Hill. 

  Coach Dawson used to call the plays from the press box, so he would communicate with Coach Spittal via a headset. Dawson recalls being worried about a play call for whatever reason. However, with Ryan at quarterback, everything was okay. “I would be worried that the play wouldn’t work, but before you knew it, Logan would get 15-20 yards,” said Coach Dawson. “On the headphones, I remember, Coach Spittal and I, at a game at Winslow, who was loaded, and Logan took a play, where somebody was lined up wrong. I was like, “Aww, the kid is going the wrong way” and Coach Spittal  would say, “Let it go, he’s loose” as Logan ran it in for a touchdown.”

  Coaching Ryan was just as much fun as it was to watch him play. He had the utmost respect for his coaches, and was eager to learn, and not just on the playing field. He was a good poet in the classroom. Ryan built strong connections with his coaches, whom he still talks to every once in a while.

  Coach Hill recalls a practice where he was teaching technique and broke Ryan’s nose in the process. Or at least Ryan likes to think he did. “He was DB and I was demonstrating some technique with him, and I remember during this demonstration somehow I accidentally struck him in the nose,” said a laughing Coach Hill. “He jokes to this day I broke his nose, but I didn’t break his nose.” 

  You can tell he was close with his coaches because when it was recruiting time, and every major program on the East Coast was hot on his tail, he leaned on his coaches. He decided to play at Rutgers University, which surprised Coach Spittal a bit, but Logan had confidence in Rutgers. At the time they were a top 25 program in the nation. 

  When he committed to Rutgers before senior year, he made sure to call Coach Dawson to tell him. Dawson was on the beach in Virginia when Ryan called him with his commitment. When he was drafted, Coach Dawson texted him, and Logan got right back to him and thanked him for his help. 

  Ryan doesn’t forget his roots. In 2018, when he won NFLPA Community Man of the Week, and subsequently won $10,000 to donate anywhere he wants, he donated it to the Eastern High School Athletics program. During the past three years, Logan Ryan and Eli Apple have held a free football camp for all ages at Eastern. 

  A few years ago he was inducted into the Eastern Hall of Fame, and  gave a speech about his football journey, beginning as a student athlete at Eastern, to being a father today

  When they watch him now, all three of his high school coaches are proud to have coached him. Coach Spittal said, “He’s not the fastest, but his intelligence makes up for it and so does his film work.” 

  Coach Hill is fortunate to have coached him and is proud of the man he has become. 

  Coach Dawson just enjoys watching him play. “My son and I, when he’s on TV or he’s around we always make time to watch him play, and it’s just cool to see him because you remember him as a freshman. My son looks up to him, so when he went from the Patriots to the Titans, he had to get a new Titans Logan Ryan jersey.”

  Ryan, and his whole family, still keeps in touch with Eastern to this day. In an interview with Medium he said, “My dad still goes to games on Fridays, sits up there in the stands. My family, my parents, we support the school greatly.”     He is impressed with Tom Flacco beating his QB records from when he played.

 Ryan also has a close relationship with Eastern Alum and former first round pick Eli apple.  He said Apple represented the school well by winning a national championship with Ohio State. 

  Ryan will always remember where he came from. “I am very in touch with my roots down there,” Ryan said. “And wish the best for those guys.”