By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Bernie Ryan still gets nervous about her baby boy Matt each Sunday. She’s hopeful her third-eldest child comes away with all of his limbs intact, that he’s able to walk home.
The twist is that each Sunday Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan is the one who makes every NFL defense he goes against nervous and twitchy. They hope he doesn’t shred them, like he surgically destroyed the Eagles on the Falcons’ first two drives on Sunday.
Ryan had his own cheering section at Lincoln Financial Field, about 60 strong from in around the Philadelphia area, comprised of family and friends. They were there to watch their brother, their cousin, their life-long friend who still loves visiting the Jersey Shore for a few weeks in the off-season complete three of his first four passes, and convert four-of-four third downs in engineering a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.
But it’s nothing Ryan’s family hasn’t seen before. Before the world was introduced to “Matty Ice,” his firm, stable foundation began in Exton, Chester County, and is deeply entrenched in maternal patriarch Sam Loughery.
“It’s always been about bat, ball and glove, not your mouth, it’s what I preached to all of my grandchildren,” said Loughery, 87, a World War II navy veteran whose crew was bombed at Pearl Harbor and the father of six, five girls and a boy. “I’ve been an Eagles’ fan and Philadelphia sports fan my whole life, but when Matt was drafted by the Falcons, they say blood is thicker than water, and that’s who the whole family roots for today. I’m still an Eagles’ fan and will always be an Eagles’ fan, except when they play my grandson, and when the Falcons play.”
Loughery went to Frankford High School and wanted to leave school early to enlist into the navy on the brink of World War II. He may be grandfather to Philadelphia’s first family of football, since Ryan is with the Falcons, and Matt’s younger cousin, Mike McGlinchey, is 6-foot-9, 275-pound Penn Charter star bound for Notre Dame.
“It’s about family,” McGlinchey said. “It’s why my family all became Boston College fans when Matt was there, and why we’re all Atlanta Falcon fans. It’s why my family will all become Notre Dame fans next year when I get there. I’m fortunate to be part of such a great, big family, and family-first family.”
Mike Ryan, Matt’s father, admits he still pinches himself when it comes to his son’s stardom. “That’s just it, Matt sees himself as a football player,” Mike Ryan said. “He understands what he is, but to all of us, he’s still Matt, and that’s important. Matt hasn’t changed. He still comes home and spends two weeks down Wildwood, where we’ve been going since Matt and the kids were young. It’s important how he carries himself, especially when it comes to kids.”
The Ryans, McGlincheys and Lougherys all concealed their Atlanta black-and-red colors, and their No. 2 jerseys. They know the way Philadelphia fans can be. But you couldn’t help but hear them Sunday each time Matt completed a pass and had the Falcons up, 14-0.
“Matt’s most impressive attribute is his head, he’s always been a student of the game, even when he was at Penn Charter, and carried that all the way to BC and now the NFL,” said John Loughery, Matt’s uncle. “We all had a sense around Matt’s junior year at Boston College some bigger things were ahead. But nothing like this, we didn’t want to put the cart before the horse.”
As to where all the size comes from, Sam Loughery pointed to the heavens. His wife, Bernice McGurk, was 5-11 and passed away in 2001 after battling cancer. “She had the good genes, and she’s watching her grandchildren with a smile, I know it,” said Sam, sitting in a lawn chair in the center of the family tailgate outside Lincoln Financial Field. “This is all like a dream come true for the family.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.