GARRETTSVILLE -With fall swiftly approaching, all eyes in the sports world are shifting to the gridiron. Soon enough, Friday nights will be filled with bright lights and echoing sounds of whistles, cheers and cracking pads.
Matt Ryser, offensive left tackle for the Garfield G-Men, is excited to get his junior season underway. Ryser will be one of the foundation walls for the G-Men offense this year. But just two years ago, while preparing for his first start as a freshman, Ryser suffered a serious injury that put his playing days at risk.
"I was supposed to be playing on a Friday," said Ryser about entering the fifth game of the 2012 season. "They said, 'You know, our tackle isn't cutting it, and we're going to need you to get in there.' And as a freshman that was kind of scary. But in practice on a Wednesday I went to pull around a block and I pulled my hamstring and fractured my pelvis."
Ryser wound up missing the remaining six games of the 4-6 season. With both the pelvic fracture and the pulled hamstring, recovery was a long process. Although he was able to participate in the track and field season, where he excels at the discus throw and shot put, Ryser noted there were some persistent issues and side effects that lingered into the 2013 football season. He said missing that time playing as a freshman may have set him back in the learning process.
"It was very discouraging during my freshman year because the coaches were really encouraging me, saying 'you're going to get playing time as a freshman. You might letter as a freshman.' Which for me would have been really great, meaning I would be a four-year letterman. But then I got injured and just the whole recovery process of that was really tough. It was kind of rough the first couple games (sophomore year returning from the injury)."
Ryser added that he isn't sure if missing games affected his preparedness.
"At this point, I can't really tell, but I'm sure it would have done something. Even if it would have just been for my first few games sophomore year. It could have just gotten me more ready and adjusted to varsity, which is incredibly fast compared to anything else."
Ryser took to that change in pace very well though, as he made second-team all-league last year. Of course, there were other factors, but his presence on the field was certainly a positive for the Garfield offense as it improved significantly. From 2012 to 2013, the G-Men improved their points per game by nine. In 2012, they scored more than 15 points only three times all season. In 2013, they scored less than 15 points only three times.
Ryser is as active off the field as he is on it, working with the youth group at the St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Garrettsville. Ryser and other churchgoers volunteer at local soup kitchens and other area events dedicated to giving back to the community. One area he takes pride in assisting every year with the church is volunteering for the Hattie Larlham Foundation, a nonprofit organization that, according to their website, "provides medical, residential, recreational and vocational services to improve the lives of Northeast Ohio children and adults with developmental disabilities."
On the field, Ryser is ready for another healthy season. Garfield finished last year at 5-5 and is poised to make a playoff push with Ryser anchoring the line at 100 percent.
"Everything is going great, no hindrances what so ever," he said. "I'm the strongest I've ever been, I'm the fastest I've ever been and I'm just really looking forward to having a great season this year."