Troy, Mo. - For three years, Nathan Ryan cheered Troy-Buchanan’s football team from the stands, as a standout for the Trojans’ basketball and soccer teams.
Playing football, was a thought, but was it really a reality?
Actually, it was, and the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior is the leading receiver on a Trojan team that has already won more games in 2021 that it won in 2020.
The Trojans went just 3-7 in 2020. Entering Week 7, Troy is 5-1, and Ryan has been a major factor, with over 500 yards receiving and five TD receptions.
Ryan said the impetus to join the roster was a scheme change from the flexbone running game to a more wide-open passing style.
“I’ve known (Coach Ryan) Nesbitt for a while,” he said. “He told me he was going to change the offense and throw the ball a little more, so I came out to play.”
Few people expected to learn the wide receiver position in such a short period of time, but Ryan has been a quick study. Throughout the spring and summer, he said he worked on route running in 7-on-7 camps and with his receiver coaches.
The one person who wasn’t really surprised by Ryan’s success – is Nesbitt. Nesbitt also said Ryan is a strong player who is strong in the classroom, so it is not surprising that he could learn the wideout position as quickly as he did.
“He’s a good natural athlete,” Nesbitt’s said. “He’s a 34 ACT kid.
“He’s been impressive to watch.”
Ryan said playing wide receiver is a lot like playing basketball, especially on a “50-50” ball, where he can use can his size to out jump a defender for a pass from quarterback Charos Sutton.
He said it’s similar to rebounding, because the coordination and footwork are the same, especially if the defender is behind him.
“It’s definitely similar to ‘boxing out’ when a defender is behind me,” Ryan said. “I can use my size and position to get the ball.”
Nesbitt said Ryan has already turned into a game-breaking weapon for Troy-Buchanan.
With three minutes remaining, Ryan took a strike from Sutton, and outran the entire Timberland defense for a 76-yard score that proved to be the dagger in a 49-35 win for the Trojans.
“(Ryan) has turned into that weapon,” Nesbitt said. “He’s turned into that game-breaking weapon each week for us.”
Ryan said he’s enjoying the ride, but he’s just a cog in the machine that is Troy-Buchanan varsity football.
“It’s been going pretty well so far. It definitely feels good winning,” he said. “If we were losing, it probably wouldn’t feel as good.
“It’s about a team effort. If this whole team hadn’t stepped up all season, I wouldn’t have this opportunity.”