Notre Dame's Massimo Ryan is a star receiver with the Notre Dame Jugglers, but ask him about his true football identity, and he'll tell you its on the defensive side of the ball. (Photo property of Wilson Wong 2021. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Football

BCHSF Player of the Week: Wherever you plug him in, Massimo Ryan shines bright, but Notre Dame Jugglers’ senior says his heart belongs on defence!

VANCOUVER — Massimo Ryan has just gotten out of his French class at Notre Dame Regional Secondary, so when he takes a call to chat a little Jugglers’ football, nothing gets lost in translation when it comes to his favourite side of the ball.

“So many people see the long bomb and how amazing receivers are in football,” he explains of the game in general, “but I know that my teammates appreciate what is done on defence, and that that is where championships are won.

“I also know that what we can do on offence is no less important,” the 5-foot-11, 190 pound senior continues. “But for me, the defensive side of the ball is where football games are won.”

Consider that slice of honesty as 100 per cent genuine, because Ryan is coming off a win last week over New Westminster in which, as a receiver and tight end on offence, he made eight catches for 192 yards and a touchdown, and also threw a 90-yard touchdown pass to slotback Anthony Amenta.

Defensively, he had two pass knockdowns.

For all of that, Ryan has been named a Varsity Letters’ B.C. High School Football Player of the Week.

Notre Dame head coach Denis Kelly appreciates just how versatile a Scrabble chip Ryan has been for his team, and while his defensive play often times get lost behind an offence powered by quarterback Aiden Domino, his Swiss army knife brand of defence makes him so adaptable to any scheme.

“I’d call him a sort of a strong safety/linebacker hybrid,” describes Kelly, “a guyswith the ability to be a run stopper and a pass defender. He can adapt to an array of coverages including lining up close to the line of scrimmage.”

Notre Dame free safety/linebacker Massimo Ryan (1) gets a hand on Kelowna running back Jack Nyrose earlier this season at soggy Burnaby Lakes. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)

And while Ryan speaks his mind on where he fits best, he also has never lost sight of the fact that every position his coaches have plugged him into throughout his career has ultimately helped him become the most complete player he can be.

“I have played a lot of positions since Grade 6,” he explains. “And I appreciate my coaches putting me in positions where I can go out and prove myself.”

Including going back to the quarterback role he’s held at various times throughout his climb up the high school football ladder.

At one stage of Friday’s win over New Westminster, Domino suffered an injury which forced him to the sidelines for a snap or two.

Ryan stepped in and connected with Amenta in one of the longest scoring plays of the season.

“When coach Kelly told me to go in, I had some nerves for a second, but I just told myself that this is what I had to do for my team,” said Ryan.

In the end, as the Jugglers played an historic football game, winning their first-ever contest at their new home field on longtime coach George Oswald’s 75th birthday, Massimo Ryan was just busy doing his job as a true football player, ready to take on any task asked of him at just a tap on a shoulder.

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