Matt and Sarah Ryan are quite possibly the most famous Boston College alumni power couple. Matt, BC ’07, was the second most successful quarterback in Boston College history behind Doug Flutie, was drafted 3rd overall in 2008, and is the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. His wife Sarah, also BC ’07, was the captain of the women’s basketball team during her time at BC, and is currently a Sponsorship Sales Consultant for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.
Speaking about leadership and their BC experiences to a packed audience in the Murray Room last Wednesday, the Ryans brought both humor and perspective to the Brennan Symposium, which was sponsored by the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics. Dean Andy Boynton of the Carroll School of Management posed a series of questions to the couple, after which it was opened up for the audience to ask their own.
The Ryans stressed that great chemistry, which is about caring and being a good friend, equals great teamwork and the best results. Matt pointed to the 2007 Eagles squad as having both “chiefs and indians,” meaning that the team had both leaders and followers that are essential for success. The chemistry was enhanced by the fact that the team had 22 out of 25 players in Ryan’s freshman class still on the team as seniors. Sarah looked back to her freshman year, when the captains of the women’s basketball team made everyone feel included, even those who did not play that often. She felt that this influenced her leadership style when she became captain.
Matt also brought up the importance of preparation and focus as well. Preparation for Matt means feeling confident on gameday, the gameplan and teammates. Focus helps in preparation, as it eliminates distractions and helps in mental discipline.
Sarah revealed that it was very easy being the wife of an NFL superstar, and respects her husband immensely for doing the heavy lifting. However, she did say that it was hard to see Matt take violent hits and lose. Matt said that Sarah leaves notes of encouragement for him, especially in his low moments, to pull him through.
Reflecting on their experiences at BC, Matt and Sarah had fond memories. Matt stated that meeting Sarah, winning against Virginia Tech and the ensuing celebration on campus when the team arrived back and celebrating a win in the locker room against Clemson stuck out the most. He pointed to Father Tony Penna, Dean Keeley, and Nick Nugent as great faculty that influenced him. Sarah cherished Marathon Mondays and spending time with her teammates, and also counted Father Penna as one of her favorite faculty members.
There were various times when both the Ryans and the audience broke into laughs. When Dean Boynton asked Matt what question would he ask God, Matt responded “When are we [the Falcons] gonna win the Super Bowl?”
Students asked wide-ranging questions from what Matt would do if he had a night at BC, if he was a good pick for their fantasy football team and what he considered to be the best-kept secret at BC.
Both Matt and Sarah were grateful for the opportunities that BC gave them, and spoke of the great alumni network all over the country. Sarah credited BC’s selling points in addition to athletics, such as its prime location and its stellar academics.
Matt stated about a Boston College education, “People are impressed--it says a lot about you that you went to BC.” Sarah agreed, stating that “learning on the fly from college to the real world is a tough transition, but BC prepares you well.”
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