EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Logan Ryan has long believed that being a complete NFL player means not just performing well but playing fair and playing clean. Harmful shots and illegal hits are not part of his repertoire and he is always cognizant of avoiding actions that reflect badly on his team and himself.
"One-hundred percent," Ryan said. "It's not in the game, it's not how the game should be. You can be tough, you can be physical, you can be violent, but you don't have to be cheap. That is not tough, that is not physical, it's cowardly. I never try to hit a quarterback below his knees. I never try to hit a receiver helmet to helmet. Accidents happen, I'm playing hard and fast, but I never wish to hurt anybody. I respect the opponent so much I want him out there so that I can compete against him."
Because of his unwavering commitment to those ideals, Ryan is the Giants' nominee for the 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
The award, established in 2014, is presented each year to an NFL player "who demonstrates the qualities of outstanding sportsmanship on the playing field, including fair play, respect for opponents and integrity in competition." It is named in in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney, Sr.
Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was the team's nominee last year.
"Logan embodies exactly what it truly means to be a Giant on and off the field," said Tomlinson. "Once he arrived here, he immediately gained the respect of his teammates and each week you can see why he's respected amongst the best athletes in the world. His relentless drive to play the game at a high level doesn't come at the cost of playing with integrity. His on the field sportsmanship is unmatched and he has an unwavering amount of respect for the game and our opponents, which has become something that has stood out to me."
The first six winners of the award were all part of recent NFL royalty – Larry Fitzgerald, Charles Woodson, Frank Gore, Luke Kuechly, Drew Brees and the 2019 honoree, Adrian Peterson.
"It's a great list," Ryan said. "It's a great honor. I think it's my greatest honor. I've been trying to do a lot off the field and just being a good person. Those are all really good players and really good people. I learned you can be both and they work together. You can be a good person off the field and be a really good player as well."
View must-see photos of defensive back Logan Ryan.
Ryan, a defensive back who won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, is equally productive at cornerback and safety. Now in his eighth NFL season and first with the Giants, he was at this writing second on a team in the hunt for the NFC East title with 58 tackles (46 solo), one sack, seven passes defensed and a game-clinching interception in a victory in Washington.
But Ryan defines success by so much more than statistics, or even wins and losses. He values the importance of being a good teammate not only to those in Giants blue, but to what he considers the association of NFL players.
"Outside of those lines, even during the game, you don't wish ill will toward anybody," Ryan said. "My best friends in this world are my former teammates, guys I've bonded with at my wedding, know my kids, uncles to my kids. Honestly, my greatest bonds have been in the NFL locker room.
"I understand the pressure that we deal with on social media, day in and day out, the lifestyle that we have to live where you really can't appear as less than perfect in any phase. If you get in trouble off the field, if you're drinking and driving, if you're doing anything, it's on ESPN. You have to really live a model life, and that's hard for any person to do."
This season, Ryan was involved in two highly publicized but vastly different incidents that exemplified for him what it means to play in the NFL.
On Oct. 11 in Dallas, Ryan tackled Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, whose leg bent at an odd angle, resulting in a compound fracture of his right ankle that ended his season. Prescott had started all 69 Dallas games since entering the league in 2016 and no one was more upset to see the streak end than Ryan.
"I was the first one there kneeling by him, I felt horrible," Ryan said. "I wanted to beat the Cowboys as bad as anyone else, but I didn't want to hurt Dak Prescott. He worked really hard to get where he's at. I think he's a really good player, good human being, and I felt bad for him. I felt really bad. We don't ever wish for injuries here. I think there is a brotherhood in this league. Especially the longer you've been in it, you cherish the opportunity to have such a great job like we have."
Three weeks later, Ryan was departing MetLife Stadium at 1 a.m. following the Giants' Monday night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he received a phone call from his wife, Ashley. She had flown to Florida, where they have a home, so she could vote in the presidential election. She told her husband she had extreme stomach pains. Only after Ryan conferred with Giants assistant athletic trainer Justin Maher did Ashley agree to go to a hospital. The decision saved her life, because doctors discovered an ectopic pregnancy and she underwent emergency surgery.
Logan and Ashley have a daughter, Avery, and a son, Otto, and during that unsettling and difficult week, the brotherhood – not only of NFL players but the wider world of football - was there for Ryan.
"I heard from everybody," Ryan said. "Hundreds of messages when I went public with that information. So many people. College coaches, coaches who recruited me in college and I didn't go to their schools, teammates, former teammates, all over the NFL. I really think that my personality aligns with a lot of good people, and those people support me and I support them, and I'm there for them. We understand in 2020 how important life is outside of football, more than ever, with the losses that everyone has dealt with, the hardships that everyone has dealt with in this country. I think for our story to be out there like that, a lot of people showed me support and really pushed me to keep going and to try to manage everything and to be a father and a husband first. That was my biggest priority, and it ended up helping my family out a ton."
"I'm not married, so I can't imagine what he was going through," said safety Jabrill Peppers, who starts next to Ryan at the back of the Giants' defense. "To be honest, you wouldn't even tell by the way he comes to work every day. He's a leader, he has experience, and he's hard on us. He didn't talk about it with us. That's just the way he is. He's a pro's pro."
And a pro worthy of the Art Rooney Award.