How Boston College uses Matt Ryan and famous alums in recruiting

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, left, who played at Boston College, participated in his first Eagle Walk with the 2016 football team prior to his jersey retirement ceremony in November. He said the experience was "cool." Boston College Athletics

Nearly a decade has passed since Matt Ryan took his last snap at Boston College. Current recruits were in elementary school, having watched him more with the Atlanta Falcons than with the Eagles.

But when you have a former player as decorated as Ryan, you try not to let anyone forget where he started his career. So, yes, Boston College still uses Ryan as a selling point to those interested in coming to play at Boston College. His success in the NFL and trip to the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots only underscores that reason.

Boston College representatives attended media day on Monday night and had him say the school's tagline, "Decide to Fly" from the podium. That will be used in a video sent to prospective recruits.

"It comes up when you’re recruiting quarterbacks. It comes up with the high-profile recruits that are dreaming about playing in the National Football League, it comes up when we’re recruiting Philadelphia, so absolutely," said Barry Gallup, senior associate athletic director for football and alumni relations. "Recruiting in Atlanta, it helps you a lot. We have four players on our roster now from Atlanta."

Boston College makes a concerted effort to make sure any recruit considering Boston College knows Ryan played there, winning ACC Player of the Year honors in 2007 while taking the Eagles to their first Atlantic Division title. Florida State and Clemson have dominated that side of the division for so long, it is easy to forget that Boston College played in an ACC title game before the Tigers did.

"We do a lot of mailings, and on social media, we always send out Boston College in the NFL every week -- just a quick blurb on what they did," Gallup said. "They may not know a player went to Boston College until they hear it, and when they come to home games we have our NFL highlights during a timeout where they’ll show whomever had a good game in the NFL. We make sure that they are aware of that."

Receivers coach Rich Gunnell played with Ryan at Boston College, and had one of the more famous touchdown catches in a comeback win against Virginia Tech in 2007. So he has a personal connection when he sits down to talk to recruits.

"I throw it out there, especially because it’s my claim to fame," Gunnell said. "I use it a bunch. Most people are like, 'Oh your name sounds familiar,' and I’m like, 'Yeah, I played with Matt.' And they’re like, 'Oh that’s right, that’s right.'"

Ryan is not the only former alum Boston College promotes. Players from Doug Flutie to Luke Kuechly to B.J. Raji to Anthony Castonzo also are part of the recruiting strategy. Harold Landry, who led the nation in sacks in 2016, is from North Carolina and has said one of the reasons he was interested in Boston College was because Kuechly was the first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in Landry's junior year.

Given all the connections, Gallup has decided to reach out to more alumni in his new role and wants to make at least one NFL game a year featuring a Boston College player.

He went to five NFL games this past season, and saw Ryan and Kuechly play in person.

"I went to Matt’s game in Philly, and that was a homecoming for him and they lost," Gallup said. "I didn’t even bother him after the game. I saw his parents. I went to a game in Charlotte, and sat with Luke’s parents in the stands, so I think it’s important you do that. You also get a better feeling for them."

Ryan gets back to campus when he can. His wife, Sarah, played basketball at Boston College and is from Maine, so they try to stop by when they head up North. When Boston College retired his jersey in November, Ryan spoke to the team and also participated in his first Eagle Walk through campus to the football stadium. He described it as "cool."

When Sunday rolls around, there will be a small pocket of folks deep in the heart of Patriots country pulling for a different quarterback from Boston.