(photo by Brian Murphy)
[Editor's note: This season, the Washington Redskins have asked me to occasionally write feature stories for the team's official website, Redskins.com. This article is my latest contribution, so please check it out.]
Since the day he was drafted by the Washington Redskins, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has made a name for himself as one of the team’s most productive players.
On or off the field, he’s never going to be considered the flashiest guy on the team. But his team-high 13 sacks since 2011 and his ability to never miss a down show he’s a highly-effective playmaker who the franchise can build around.
But don’t let his squeaky-clean image fool you because there’s more to Kerrigan than he lets on. Like, for example, the fact that his birth name is actually Patrick Ryan Kerrigan. Here Redskins fans thought they knew a little bit about the guy and it turns out most of them don’t even know his real first name.
“That was actually my parents’ decision,” he said. “My dad’s middle name is Patrick and they wanted to name me after my dad, but they didn’t want to have too much confusion. They did the same thing with my brother because my dad’s name is Brendan and they named my brother Brendan Kyle Kerrigan. They wanted to name him after my dad without too much confusion, so they call him Kyle.”
Quirky family traditions aside, Kerrigan swears his childhood in Muncie, Indiana, was completely normal. Sure, it’s not the biggest city out there, but there was still plenty of ways for him to have a good time.
“It was fun for me growing up there because I knew everybody,” Kerrigan said. “I wouldn’t really call it a tourist destination, but it was a fun place for me and I still have lots of friends and family back there.
“I was just like every kid – I wanted to play outside,” he continued. “Growing up, I liked playing any sport and I lived next door to a swimming pool. My friend also had a lake house that I spent a lot of weekends at during the summer. I really liked swimming.”
Kerrigan’s father, Brendan, played football at Ball State and his mother, Anita, was a solid athlete as well, which helps explain why Ryan has always been so athletically gifted and enjoys playing sports so much. In high school, he excelled at football, baseball, basketball and swimming.
“It was great having parents with athletic backgrounds because they got me into it and they helped me appreciate sports more,” he said.
While he’s regularly lauded for his standout play on the gridiron, there was once a time when Kerrigan was known as a basketball player as well. During his high school days, he even played against future NBA players like Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. But was he actually any good?
“I liken my game to that of Ben Wallace,” Kerrigan said. “I can rebound, do the dirty work and block shots. I can even add in the occasional dunk, but I don’t really have much of a shot. I was only out there to do the dirty work.”
At least he knew his place on the basketball court and was honest about what he brought to the table. Although he was much more of a role player on the hardwood court than he is on a football field, Kerrigan’s mentality remained the same.
“I just tried to come in, do my job and help my team win however I could,” he said.
That practical mindset has served him well over the years — including when it was time to decide where to go to college.
“Purdue was the best opportunity for me, both academically and athletically,” he said. “They had a bunch of defensive ends who were upperclassmen when I was being recruited and that was a big selling point for me because I knew I’d be able to play early and often there. And it worked out really well for me there. You know, I didn’t win as many games as I would have liked to, but I still really enjoyed my time there.”
Even though he’s been playing football since he was in the first grade, it wasn’t until his second year at Purdue that Kerrigan began to believe playing football for a living was a distinct possibility.
“I started to think maybe I could have a shot at the NFL,” he said. “By that point, I had played a couple seasons and had a pretty good year my sophomore season. I started to see a lot of my college teammates go pro, so I thought, ‘If they can do it, then why can’t I?’ That’s when I really began to focus in on taking this thing as far as I could.”
Kerrigan was named a unanimous All-American and his 33.5 sacks rank second in the school’s history. He was voted the 2010 Big Ten Conference Defensive Player and Lineman of the Year and lead the nation with 26 tackles for loss. And yet, when it was time for the NFL Draft, he still couldn’t help but feel nervous about the entire ordeal.
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