As excuses go, Sean Ryan's reason for having to reschedule his Alumni Review interview was a pretty good one. He had to go to the White House that day. Ryan '94, offensive quality control coach for the New York Giants, was joining the Giants to be feted by President Bush for their storybook run to and victory in Super Bowl LXII in February. Along the way, they spent a couple of hours at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, "visiting with the wounded warriors," Ryan said the next day. "It was probably the best part of the trip. Not that anything overshadows the White House, but it was great to be able to go in and visit with those guys. To hear their stories and see what they're going through — it puts everything in perspective."
Perspective may seem hard to come by when you've been on the winning side at the Big Show in your first NFL season, or when you've climbed the coaching ladder at a nosebleed pace — eight jobs in 11 years, starting with Division I-AA Siena College and ending with a key role in directing Eli Manning and company into history. Ryan, however, developed the long view early. As a sophomore playing for the Continentals, he had moved from cornerback — "not a strong position for my skills" — to strong safety, where he believed he had found his position and role with the team. Then came a devastating knee injury, a torn ACL that ended his season and threatened his playing career. When the repaired knee did not respond fully by the next summer, the frustrated Ryan got a call from Jim O'Rourke '94, a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother and football player who had suffered a similar injury, about a possible chance to coach at Clinton High School. Was Ryan interested? "It was Jim who found the opportunity, and knowing I was struggling with not playing, he got me involved as well," Ryan says. "I'll always be grateful to him, and he remains a close friend." The two served as junior varsity coaches and assisted with the varsity during their junior and senior years. "When I remember the disappointment of my playing career at Hamilton," Ryan says, "I think, hey, had that not happened to me, the whole coaching job at Clinton High School doesn't happen, and I'm not standing here today."
While Ryan can reconstruct the Giants' Super Bowl season virtually possession by possession, "I don't know that anything changed that much over the course of the season," he says. The stunning playoff run that ended with a 17-14 upset win over the undefeated New England Patriots involved no heroics or magic; it was a matter of doing the small things consistently and well. "The biggest factor in the playoffs was the fact that we turned the ball over one time — that was in the Super Bowl, and that was on a deflected pass. We were also a very good team when it came to penalties."
And when it was over? "Surreal," he laughs. "I'm standing on the field in the confetti with my mom. And I'm thinking, I've watched this scene my entire life on television, and now I'm part of it. It's a lot to process, but at the same time you want to remind yourself to enjoy it, to be there with your family and your team. "This business is about moving forward — the next game, the next season — but I'll never forget that, and it will never get old."
What he does: Ryan’s job as offensive quality-control coach for the New York Giants includes breaking down film of upcoming opponents’ defenses — “there I’m working ahead of the other coaches a couple of weeks” — as well as working with the wide receivers coach, running the scout team and updating the playbook. “You wear a lot of hats in this job,” he says. “You’re the younger guy on the staff, and you’ve really got to be able to do a bunch of different things.”