Commentary

Matt Ryan: Things You Should Know About Being A Rookie

What's it like being an impact rookie four games into your career? Falcons QB Matt Ryan shares some insights.

Updated: November 20, 2008, 2:56 PM ET
By Anna K. Clemmons | ESPN The Magazine

Matt RyanDoug Benc/Getty ImagesWhen he's not delivering doughnuts on Saturdays or making sure there's plenty of Popeye's chicken available for road trips, rookie quarterback Matt Ryan directs the Atlanta Falcons offense.
Editor's note: As part of ESPN.com's look at impact rookies through the first quarter of the NFL season, we provide a quick question-and-answer session with Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft and former Boston College star was thrust into the rebuilding Falcons' starting lineup. He has fared reasonably well and has led Atlanta to a 2-2 start. ESPN The Magazine's Anna K. Clemmons caught up with Ryan, and he tells you Things You Should Know About Being A Rookie.

1. The best part? Just being here.

I think just the opportunity to play, to be out on that field and realize it's the NFL and you're playing at the highest level of competition there is, that's pretty incredible.

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2. Seven days feels like seven minutes.

The turnover feels so much faster from week to week. There's a lot more preparation to be done in looking at [and] breaking down an opponent's defense. There are so many different elements, meaning your preparation takes a lot longer and the week feels a lot shorter. That's been the biggest adjustment so far.

3. Really, everything moves faster.

The biggest surprise is how fast it comes on you. You finish your college season, and everyone tells you the next year will be long with so many different things: the combine, the draft, then all the things where you get to the city, attend rookie symposium. It all makes the season sneak up so much faster. I feel like I was just in college last week, and now we're in Week [5].

4. It's all about balance.

There definitely are more constraints on your time. You find a balance between preparing for football and finding time to rest and take care of the things you need to lead a normal life.

5. Your first year is your first year.

It's still the rookies and veterans, no matter how many plays you play on Sunday. Along with the other rookies, I'm still making sure there are doughnuts on Saturday, making sure everyone has his Popeye's chicken for the away games, letting everyone else deplane before I do, all that stuff.

6. It's not as bad as some people might think.

I think there's this misconception that, if you're a rookie and you have to do all the things you have to do, it's miserable. That's not true. At the end of the day, you have to do that stuff, but the guys still treat you like a teammate. They may make you do those things, but they also have fun with you. They've embraced all of us.

7. The organization also offers us direction.

One of the great things about being a Falcon is the player-development department. They do such a great job of helping with the transition. There are plenty of folks on staff to help you, say, find a place to live, and they give you a feel for what other guys have done since they've been here. [Senior director of player development] Kevin Winston has helped me a ton.

8. Advice for next year's rookies: Pace yourself.

After the season, you need to remember to pace yourself before you get to training camp and the regular season. It's a long process of finding out where you're going to play. You have to work hard and do all those things asked of you, but at the same time, you have to prepare yourself to get ready to play physically. Don't forget that you're still there to play football.

9. My "welcome to the NFL" moment:

I think the coolest part so far was the first regular-season game against Detroit. It wasn't a specific TD pass or anything, but just the first time you run out on that field and realize it's for real. Whether you win or lose, it's just a ton of fun.

10. As for those nicknames …

Usually it's things that guys see during training camp. You spend so much time together that that sticks with them. I haven't really gotten a nickname yet, so I guess there hasn't really been anything that funny.

11. Anything you wouldn't mind not enduring as a rook?

The worst is having to wait to be the last one off the plane. When you land and you're ready to get off but instead you just watch everyone go by, that's the worst.

Anna K. Clemmons writes for ESPN The Magazine.