DENHAM SPRINGS – More than three hours after the birth of his first son, the rapidly beating heart of Denham Springs High special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Joe Ryan shifted for a different reason.
For the first time in his young coaching career, Ryan wasn’t present to coach a game, instead with his wife Betsy for the delivery of Joseph Patrick Ryan III at 6 pounds, 11 ounces.
“I never knew I could love something so much,” said Ryan, who was back on the sideline for Denham Springs' 37-29 win over Fontainebleau last Friday. “The second I saw him I cried like a baby. It was love at first sight.”
Ryan’s other love, Denham Springs High School football, was involved in one of the school’s more epic battles with Ponchatoula when the Green Wave took a breathtaking 64-63 lead with 3:29 remaining in the game.
Ryan was connected for much of the roller-coaster ride Denham Springs was involved in, his phone streaming the local radio broadcast, along with text messages trickling in from the wife of a DSHS assistant coach along with constant Twitter updates.
“It was very tough not to be there,” Ryan said. “The competitor inside me, I wanted to be there for my guys, the other coaches, the school and community.”
As Denham Springs advanced down the field, crossing into Ponchatoula territory, Ryan’s thoughts shifted to his placekicker – Jose Ortega – and the possibility of the senior’s powerful right leg sending the Yellow Jackets home a winner.
DSHS reached the 27-yard line, close enough for Ortega give his team the lead, when the Yellow Jackets suffered a high snap which quarterback Luke Lunsford recovered for a 25-yard loss.
Facing a fourth-and-30, DSHS didn’t get the miracle it needed when Lunsford fired incomplete on a potential trick play.
Instead they were left to lament a dizzying one-point loss in a game that featured 1,360 yards of total offense, and while disappointed, Ryan couldn’t stop celebrating his greatest victory.
The night he became a father and passed on the legacy of the Ryan name that is now alive and well for a third generation.
“We knew it was going to be soon,” Ryan said of the birth of his son, whose original due date was Sept. 28 – the night of the Live Oak game. “My wife called me in class and said it was time. I asked, ‘no football game tonight?’ She said no, she needed me up here (at hospital) that night.”
With a sudden jolt of energy shooting through his body, Ryan immediately called his parents and family members that this would indeed be the day.
It didn’t take Ryan long to rationalize he was really going to miss a football game for the first time to witness his greatest achievement. He stopped by to inform his boss, DSHS head coach Bill Conides, of the news.
Assistant coaches Tyler Love (press box) and Lafayette Duhe (field) filled in Ryan’s absence, handling the Yellow Jackets special teams personnel to avoid any hiccups.
“I told him he’s got to plan a little bit better,” Conides said facetiously. “I don’t know how many teams actually have special teams coordinators, and he also coaches our tight ends. He does a phenomenal job.”
Ryan is the lone DSHS graduate on Conides’ staff, leaping at the chance to join the staff last year following three seasons at Ascension Catholic where he also served as powerlifting coach.
“This opportunity for me is actually a dream of mine,” he said. “My original plan in life wasn’t to become a coach.”
The 2009 DSHS graduate quickly became a quick study of special teams in college at Arkansas Monticello where after signing to play fullback, the team changed to a spread offense that didn’t need a fullback.
Ryan played on as many special teams as possible, learning more about that phase of the game, and got bit by the coaching bug after coaching a year at Arkansas Monticello where he graduated in Criminal Justice/Pre-Law with a minor in psychology.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “My dad always coached and told me I would be a great coach.”
Ryan also had a desire to be a great husband and even better father, a title that also includes 5-year-old stepdaughter Analise Gautreau.
Ryan’s parents theorized last Friday that Joseph Patrick III was a ‘magical’ baby, having arrived in the world at 6:17 p.m. – measuring at 19 ¼ inches - prior to arguably the greatest game in Denham Springs history.
Joe Ryan couldn’t have been prouder.
“As the only alumnus on the staff, to be a part of such a game would have been amazing,” Ryan said. “But having my first-born son, maybe the only son I’m going to have, trumps any of that."