FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The experience of having twin sons born prematurely has given Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan every reason to support those who have gone through or will experience the same.
Ryan, as part of the NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" campaign, will wear a pair of two-tone blue cleats representing the hospital that cared for his infant sons and an organization that raises money to support the health of mothers and their babies. One of Ryan's shoes depicts the "Miracle Babies" at Northside Hospital, the other symbolizes the March of Dimes. Ryan will wear the cleats when the Falcons play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
"Both of those are important to me, personally," Ryan said. "Obviously, my sons were born prematurely here in Atlanta. They spent five and six weeks, respectively, at Northside in the NICU [neonatal intensive-care unit] and had unbelievable care for their time in there. Dr. Sandy Jun was amazing with spearheading the treatment and the care and everything for our boys. To her, and the nurses, and everybody that was there that helped us through that time, just a huge thank you. And that's why I wanted to put them on my cleats; just a way to say thank you."
I'm representing @marchofdimes in leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies & @northsidehosp NICU, for the incredible care and support provided to our boys who were born premature. Every baby deserves the best possible start. #mycausemycleats https://t.co/sJLBQ1xykb pic.twitter.com/EB5VR02gwi— Matt Ryan (@M_Ryan02) November 27, 2018
Ryan's twins, Marshall and Johnny, were born in February at 30 weeks and six days. Any birth that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered premature. Ryan's wife, Sarah, had the babies six weeks after being placed on hospital bed rest.
"I think probably the most nerve-wracking time for us both was when Sarah got admitted to the hospital last year in January, not knowing what was going on," Ryan said. "I think for anybody that has had children prematurely or has had a pregnancy that has been on bed rest in the hospital, the scariest thing is when they talk to you about survival rates for children born at certain times. That was probably the hardest thing to go through for the both of us.
"It was amazing for her to spend as much time and to keep our boys in there as long as she did to get them to a spot where they were able to thrive when they were born. We're both very lucky, very fortunate, to have had that be the case."
Falcons backup QB Matt Schaub can relate to the issue. Schaub and his wife had three children born premature, including his twins and his 4-year-old son, who was born three months early.
"I've dealt with stuff like that, so there couldn't be a better cause," Schaub said. "For Matt to represent that cause on his cleats speaks volumes about him and what's important to him."
Ryan had a message to those families going through the same ordeal.
"One, there's a lot of people that are thinking of you and praying for you," Ryan said. "There's a lot of support for you. I know it can be a stressful and lonely time. But, No. 2, there's some amazing doctors and people out there that are researching things to make sure that every baby has the best chance, and every mom has the best chance for a healthy outcome in these situations."