Ethan Ryan didn't become a running back until the eighth grade. He was originally one of the smaller tight ends around.
Ryan is still one of the smaller running backs in Berkshire County, but that hasn't stopped him from putting up a second consecutive 1,000-yard season and leading Mount Greylock back into the Berkshire County championship game.
"I was smaller than everybody. That's how it's always been," Ryan said. "I've been underestimated. It makes you a better player."
Ryan and his Mount Greylock teammates will take the field in Dalton Wednesday night to play Wahconah Regional in the Plus-One game that decides the Berkshire County championship. After that, it's off to the Division III tournament, where Ryan and the Mounties will look for their third consecutive Super Bowl championship.
Ryan comes into Wednesday's game having rushed for 1,402 yards on 160 carries. That comes out to nearly 9 yards per carry. In nine regular-season games, the senior running back broke the 100-yard mark seven times and went over 200 yards twice. In six games, he carried the ball fewer than 20 times. He also scored 23 touchdowns and had multiple touchdowns in eight of his team's nine games.
"There is some type of chip there," said Greylock coach Shawn Flaherty. "Ultimately, He's just a force. What drives Ethan is that he loves to compete."
He is listed on Mount Greylock's roster as being 5-foot-8, 180 pounds. He replaced Jason Pilot as Mount Greylock's go-to running back two years ago, and is a far different back than the 6-1, 210-pound Pilot.
Pilot ran for consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010, while this is Ryan's second consecutive season at that mark.
"When you look at him, he doesn't look like a small guy," said Hank Barrett, the Greylock quarterback who is out for the season with an injury. "I'll stand next to him and he's my height.
"There's something in him that you don't see in all athletes. There's that fire."
Ryan said he was a little surprised that he's had the kind of season he is having. Last year, Kent Hanson was the go-to guy in the Greylock offense.
"Last year, he had Hanson who people had to watch," said St. Joseph's coach Gary Bianchi. "This year, everyone's defense is focused on trying to stop him."
Bianchi and Flaherty both praise Ryan's internal battery that never seems to run down and keeps his legs moving until he's finally stopped. Ryan said he learned that in the youth leagues. He also credits basketball for helping him develop the skills needed to run for 1,400 yards.
"My youth football coach said always run with your head up," he said. "In basketball, you have to keep your head up to see what's going on the court."
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