Matty Ice won't melt under pressure of Super Bowl

You will hear the stories now. Lots of them, which is part of the profile of a National Football League quarterback who is likely to be named the league's MVP in a couple of weeks, while playing in his first Super Bowl.

I haven't dealt much with Matty Ice, aka Atlanta Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan, for the past nine years. That's what happens when you cover college football and watch boys turn into men as careers get started and blossom like Ryan and Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly who had his NFL coming out party in last year's Super Bowl.

But I watched and got to know both Kuechly and Ryan when they played for Boston College. And in 46 years as a sportswriter, I can say without hesitation that Ryan and Kuechly are my two favorite football players, not for what they did on the field, but for the kind of people they were and are.

So let's go back and let me tell you some up close and personal Matty Ice stories.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Start with Ryan's first game of his senior season (2007) at BC, playing for a new coach in Jeff Jagodzinski, who had replaced Tom O'Brien.

The Eagles were coming off a 10-3 season and O'Brien had moved on to coach North Carolina State, but the Eagles, led by Ryan, were talented enough to be ACC Atlantic Division contenders.

Still Jagodzinski only knew what Ryan had done, not what he could do. He was looking forward to the season opener at Alumni Stadium against Wake Forest.

It took less than a minute for Jags to find out as a Ryan pass was intercepted and returned for a TD in the first 20 seconds of the game to give Wake a 7-0 lead.

Six minutes later it was 14-0 after the Eagles could only produce punts.

Jagodzinski walked down the BC sideline to where his new offensive coordinator Steve Logan was calling the plays with a "What's going on look.''.

"Don't worry about it,'' Logan told Jagodzinski. ""We'll be fine.''

Three hours and 5 TD passes later, BC had a 38-28 victory and was on its way to an 11-3 season that produced an Atlantic Division title, as well as a season ending victory over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

It was a season in which Ryan had a school record of 4,,507 passing yards and a school record 31 TD passes, all of which elevated him to the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft by the Falcons and a 6-year $72 million contract.

Ryan produced as a rookie. He has produced for nine seasons, including this season's climb to his first Super Bowl, which earned him one five year contract extension (in 2013) worth $103.75 million with $59 million guaranteed. Another extension is expected in the next few weeks which should surpass the 6-year $140 million deal that Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck just signed.

Clearly, Ryan and his wife Sarah (Marshallp) will not have to worry about grocery shopping any time soon.

But the story that sticks with me through all the years and occasional meetings--the last coming when Ryan was back at BC during the Falcons' bye week in November when his uniform was retired--was the decency of Ryan as a person. In the middle of the 2007 season when I went on the disabled list after I broke some bones in my wrist in a household accident which forced me to miss a key BC Thursday night at Virginia Tech.

Normally, college seniors, even the astute ones such as Ryan, are only focused in their own world. I was covering BC for the Boston Globe and missed a key game--and a come from behind BC win led by Ryan.

That was on a Thursday night. I did not return to work until the following Wednesday, which was also BC's main media availability day.

I was sitting in the BC press room, waiting for Jagodzinski's noon press conference when I looked up and saw Matty Ice walking to me.

He was clearly the star of the week, having taken BC to No.2 in the COUNTRY after the win over Virginia Tech.

""Hey, are you OK?'' asked Ryan. I replied that I was fine, completely baffled and flattered that Ryan not only knew what happened, but cared enough to seek me out.

Ryan has moved on to bigger and better things, which is no surprise. He has taken some hits in his reputation as a player for failure to close the deal in the post-season for the Falcons, which is the burden that all NFL QBs not named Tom Brady must carry.

Even John Elway had to deal with that issue until he put together a pair of the Super Bowl wins at the end of his career.

With Sunday's efforts (5 TDs) and a triumph over the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan has now moved his act to Broadway, Super Bowl LI in Houston against the Patriots.

When I visited with Ryan during the regular season, the Falcons were a very average 6-4 and coming off a 24-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, which really bothered Ryan since he is a Philadelphia area kid. ""You guys are going up and down,'' I said to Ryan, trying to finesse my way through a bit of small talk.

""Oh, we're going to be Ok,'' said Ryan with a laugh and a look I had seen many time before. "We're going to be fine.''

They finished with 5 wins in their last six games, two playoff victories against NFC elite teams such as Seattle and Green Bay.

Now they are on the cusp of indeed closing the deal.

But already the subject of first time Super Bowl jitters has been broached with Ryan.

During the next two weeks, he will be prodded and probed. He will not be the main QB act although he should be the MVP. That role will belong to Brady with his four Super Bowl rings and soap opera drama of dealing with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

There will be stories of what it was like when Ryan was the star at BC and Brady was still Brady with the Patriots in the same town. Ryan was a fan then, he is a fan now.

The Falcons are 3 point underdogs and the Patriots and Brady could win, but it would be foolish indeed to discount what Mat Ryan can do.

And even more foolish to think he will not be ready.

He is Matty Ice and ready to prove it once again.[/membership]

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