Moments after the New York Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game, veteran punter Jeff Feagles turned toward rookie offensive quality control coach Sean Ryan and said a few quick words in his ear.
“He told me it took him 20 years to get to the Super Bowl, and I was going there in my first year with the league,” said Ryan, a 35-year-old
native of Hudson Falls. “I grew up as a Giants fan, and this is a little surreal to me. I consider myself very fortunate. I’m so happy to be here. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for me.”
It took Ryan a decade of college coaching before he landed the
Giants job, and he credits the start that several local coaches gave him for helping him move up the ladder.
The three-sport standout at Hudson Falls High School played football, basketball and baseball for the Tigers. After playing defensive back and outside linebacker at Hamilton College, Hudson Falls coach Tom Heinzelman called University at Albany head coach Bob Ford and asked him if he had a position on his staff for Ryan.
“Tommy told me he had a kid who wants to get into coaching. He [Ryan] came up to the house, and we had a long conversation. But my staff was intact at the time, and I didn’t have a spot. So I called Eddie Zaloom at Siena, and told him that he was highly recommended and a class act. I asked him if he had a spot for Sean. Eddie took him on.
“He’s one of those intelligent,
articulate kids with a great image,” Ford recalled. “Later [1998-99], he did a superb job with us, both coaching and recruiting. Sean was simply delightful.”
“I remember them sending me to Siena with Coach Zaloom. I even coached the quarterbacks back then,” said Ryan. “I can’t ask for better coaching fundamentals than I got from Coach Heinzelman, Coach Ford and Coach Zaloom. That’s what got me started.”
After coaching the wide receivers at Albany, Ryan got a job in 2000 as the Colgate University running backs coach. From there, he worked as a graduate assistant at Boston College before landing multiple jobs as the quarterbacks coach, special teams coach and running backs coach at Columbia in 2005.
He stayed in the Ivy League the next season, coaching the running backs and becoming the recruiting coordinator at Harvard before accepting his current position with the Giants.
“It’s been a good 10 years of college coaching, and I really worked my way up the ladder,” he said. “Again, I stress the fact that I was so fortunate in getting the positions I did.”
Ryan was asked exactly what a quality control coach is.
“Basically, I’m in charge of our team’s advance work. I do a lot of scouting by going over film of opponents’ defenses,” he said. “I usually work weeks ahead. I’ve seen a ton of film this year. For example, I’ve broken down four or five game films for our opponents each week.”
But Ryan said he didn’t have to work quite as hard for the Patriots, who the Giants played in the regular-season finale.
“We played them already, plus, we had two weeks to prepare for them this time,” he said.
“My typical day, on let’s say a Tuesday or Wednesday, would be to come in at 6:30 a.m., staying until 11:30 p.m or 12:30 a.m. But that’s the way it is for all coaches around the country. We’re not afraid of long hours.”
Ryan said that he and the rest of the Giants coaches are not stunned that the underdog Giants made it to the Super Bowl, despite their 0-2
start and the fact that most observers predicted them to be a .500 team, at best.
“Let’s put it this way: At the start of the season, it’s everyone’s goal to get to this point. So, we’re not shocked or surprised, because this is what we’ve been playing for all along,” he said.
“Certainly, I’m extremely happy with the outcome of our season so far, but I’m not shocked.”
Ryan said it’s a pleasure working with the Giants staff.
“Coach [Tom] Coughlin is a great coach, and the rest of the coaches, especially the ones I work with on offense, are very close,” he said.
Ryan hopes to remain in the professional game, but he doesn’t have any particular jobs in mind.
“As far as my goals are concerned, it’s to win this football game this week. I’m not thinking beyond that. I figure if you do the best job you can do, everything will work out.
“I just consider myself so lucky. This has been a special couple of weeks, and we’re all looking forward to the Super Bowl. For a guy who started out at playing football for a little high school like Hudson Falls, this is just a dream come true. I still can’t believe this is happening.”