CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — After 33 years at Metamora High School, Pat Ryan is out of retirement and ready for a new challenge at the college level as the Director of High School Relations with the Fighting Illini Football team.
“It was a big jump as far as what the expectations are, but football is still football. Obviously this is a very high level,” Ryan said. “I’ve seen a lot of really good high school players on film, but there’s a difference between Power 5, you know guys I’d take at Metamora and say boy we gotta get him the ball. So I’m learning in that capacity.”
Ryan has a big task of trying to reconnect every high school coach and program in the state to the Fighting Illini.
“We didn’t have a lot of division one players when I was at Metamora. But it was always appreciated when the University came through,” Ryan said. “We had guys that said, ‘Well gee we haven’t had a D-1 guy in 20 years.’ That doesn’t matter, we still want those connections. We want them to feel like they are a part of this program.”
The Illini hope the buzz from every corner of the state will help build a stronger program and a sense of community.
“When we have a local guy that has a chance to play here and make that connection, when they come they aren’t only representing the University of Illinois but getting to represent their community,” Ryan added. “I think that’s a fantastic thing. And we’re starting to see that. We want to capture the entire state.”
Ryan says his new job is still evolving, but this summer he’s mainly in charge of camps with high school players. Come game days in the fall, he will help host recruits to make further connections on campus.