Rockville’s Ryan twins aim for storybook finish in Class M football state final | Sports
VERNON — Matt and John Ryan, who are twins, have played football together for 13 years.
Every Rockville High senior career moment and experience will culminate on Saturday afternoon.
When the Rams take on Killingly in the Class M Championship Game at Veterans Stadium in New Britain, it will be the last time the Ryans will be on the pitch together.
“It will definitely be sad,” Matt Ryan said. “But we will always have memories. We’ll always talk about it when we get together when we’re older.
The Ryans have done things together their entire lives, even from birth. John is only two minutes longer than Matt.
So it was only natural that they started playing football at the same time, around the age of 6.
“It was awesome,” Matt Ryan said. “John is my best friend. There’s nothing better than playing the sport you love with your best friend.
During their first two seasons at Rockville High, the twins saw limited action on the varsity team.
Entering their junior year in 2020, the Ryans were ready to leave their mark on the Rams, with Matt as the starting quarterback and John as the starting receiver and defensive back.
But the 2020 campaign was canceled before it started due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many athletes in the state, Matt and John have used their downtime during the pandemic to work on their skills.
Having a training partner under the same roof made things a little easier.
“Usually you would try to get a bunch of guys together,” Matt Ryan said. “But I had John. So we threw a lot in the garden.
John thinks having the guy toss the ball to him during games with him in the backyard was hugely beneficial.
“I mean, I probably had one of my best seasons yet,” John Ryan said. “I think it was because of that. Working hard over the summer and doing it for the 2020 seniors.”
John has been Matt’s main target this season, leading the Rams with 17 catches for 348 yards in 11 games. He has three touchdown takes. Defensively, John has 30 tackles and one interception.
“John literally gives you everything in his body on offense, defense, wherever you need him,” coach Erick Knickerbocker said. “He never complains, and just works his tail and does games that sometimes you don’t think a kid like John Ryan will do when you watch him.”
Matt is 79 of 186 for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games. He also carried the ball 33 times for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
“For Matt, there were ups and downs because he didn’t have his freshman year to play quarterback last year,” Knickerbocker said. “But I’ll tell you what, he’s played as well as anyone at quarterback for the past four weeks.”
While John says the idea of twin telepathy is fictional, he knows his connection to his brother runs deeper than the one he has with his other teammates.
“I know, and I can say this because I’ve been with him so much, what he’s feeling, what he’s going through,” John Ryan said. “I think he would say the same thing.”
But like in most families, sometimes there are disagreements.
“Sometimes I’m open on third downs and the ball doesn’t come my way,” John Ryan said with a smile. “But it’s teamwork. We find a way to do the job.
Seeing that brother dynamic, both positive and negative, play out was a joy for Knickerbocker, too.
“We’re not here without these two kids,” Knickerbocker said. “Good teammates, and it’s fun to watch them fight all the time. It’s definitely one of the funnest things because Matt will only really yell at John in practice. I’m having fun a lot with that.”
The brothers are at different stages in their decision-making process for life after high school. John narrowed down his college choice to three schools, although he didn’t say which ones. He hopes to major in business or economics and does not plan to play football.
Meanwhile, Matt said he has applied to many schools, but hasn’t heard back yet. He does not know what specialty he will specialize in, but hopes to continue his football career wherever he ends up.
But that’s the future. The two brothers know that there is still work to be done in the present.
“It’s been 13 years, and to top it off, going to the state championship is like a dream,” said John Ryan. “It’s like in the movies, you know?