On the field, Liam Ryan wasn’t a late bloomer – it just took people a little while to notice he’d already blossomed.
The 20-year-old Neponset native and lacrosse standout at Rivier University in Nashua, NH, scored 35 goals and racked up 55 points in 17 games in his sophomore season for the Raiders to earn Greater Northeast Athletic Conference all-league honors, voted on by the conference’s nine head coaches. Along the way, he captured consecutive GNAC player of the week awards in April for scoring 12 goals and tallying 10 assists in four games.
More staggering than Ryan’s 2016 statistics, though, are their improbability. He didn’t start a single game at BC High in 2013, when he was a junior midfielder, and he didn’t play a single game the following season due to academic ineligibility. After his senior season in football, a sport for which he was being recruited by Bridgewater State as a strong safety, Ryan plunged into a cycle of time mismanagement, and his grades suffered accordingly.
He was barred from practicing with the team, but that didn’t deter him from working on his game. “I still played, even if it was by myself,” Ryan said in an interview. “You can always practice on your own – lots of wall ball, conditioning, working out. I kept at it.”
Two years later, those close to Ryan frame the suspension as a positive learning experience.
“It could have been the best thing for Liam,” said his father Billy, a lifelong Neponset resident and the soccer coach at BC High. “He hit a bump in the road academically after football season, but he recalculated his career path and rededicated himself to being a top student-athlete. That work ethic carried into college. He continues to be a hard worker, and that’s, I think, what separates him.”
Ryan’s coach at BC High, Tim Kelly, agreed. “I just talked to him the other day,” Kelly, who is now at Roxbury Latin, said. “We talked about his senior year, and he was very gracious about it. It was probably a good thing for him, allowed him to re-orient himself academically. That makes it even more impressive that he stuck with it and continued on into college to do the things he’s doing.”
By all accounts, Ryan’s all-conference performance on the field is commensurate with his accomplishments in the classroom, where he studies criminal justice. After graduation, he hopes to return to his hometown and use his degree to become a police officer or firefighter.
“I’ve lived in Dorchester my whole life and want to give back to the community where I was raised,” he said, and “be someone who can watch over it.”