Today’s exercise is a bit different — and, for me, not all that much exercise. This will be about Matt Ryan, about whom I’ve written on a regular basis for nearly a decade, but it won’t include much of my writing. (About here, I can hear y’all yelling, “Hallelujah!”)
I’ve known Chris Cameron for close to 40 years. He was a few years behind me at the University of Kentucky. He’s from Ashland, which is 70 miles up the mighty Ohio from my hometown. I was a cub reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader when Chris was a student intern in UK sports information. He was very sharp and very funny in a sarcastic way. You could tell he was going places, and sure enough …
After graduation and a stint as an assistant SID at Florida, Chris became Kentucky’s SID in 1988, right about the time the basketball program fell into disgrace — not his doing, I stipulate — due to the infamous Emery envelope. He was also there for the back-from-oblivion rise of Rick Pitino and his Unforgettables and the epic Duke game and UK’s run to the 1993 Final Four. He then moved to Atlanta and started his own PR firm.
In 1998, Gene DiFilippo — once an assistant AD at Kentucky — hired Chris to be Boston College’s head of sports communications. Over the years, I’d run into Chris periodically, but with BC joining the ACC I saw him even more. I hope this won’t embarrass him, but I considered him one of the best in the business. (He left BC last year and is now a Boston realtor.)
Cutting — not quickly, I concede — to the chase: On Sept. 6, 2008, I was in Chestnut Hill for Georgia Tech’s first ACC game under Paul Johnson. Ryan had been drafted by the Falcons that April and just named the starter for their regular-season opener. I mentioned that Ryan seemed the real deal.
Chris corrected me. “He’s the best,” Chris said. “He’s the very best.”
Publicists often see a side of athletes that they wouldn’t, shall we say, want publicized. That’s where Ryan, according to Chris, was/is different. For his WordPress blog Cam It Up!, Chris has written a lengthy remembrance of his Matty Ice days, and it’s so illuminating that I’m tempted to crib the whole thing. But I’d rather you click and read it in its entirety on his site. It that’s good. Here’s the one excerpt I’ll offer:
“To brag about knowing Matt Ryan would be disingenuous simply because Matt Ryan would never brag about anything. He is the essence of humility. But someone needs to brag about him, because in a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad, in a sports subculture that seems even madder, we’re very, extremely, incredibly, enormously fortunate to have Matt Ryan.”
There are anecdotes interspersed — Ryan’s reaction to Chris saying BC planned a Heisman campaign for him is priceless — and famous names (Tebow!) appear. Chris recalls the same touchdown pass against Tech in 2007 that I’ve discussed at length with Ryan over the years. (What can I say? It left an impression.) But I offer this mostly because, for the hundreds of times I’ve spoken with Ryan, I concede that Chris Cameron knows him better than any of us in the media ever will.
And I just lied: I’m passing along one further snippet — but only as another teaser, and only because I appreciate an eye for detail. Writes Chris: “In the small world department, Tom Brady and his wife Gisele live in Chestnut Hill, Mass., 1.6 miles away from the Boston College campus, where Matt met the young woman who would become his wife.”
The ol’ UK journalism degree at work! Now go read the whole thing. It’s the very best.