Ryan Gilmartin is used to being number one.
In high school, he held three prestigious titles: Fish Oil Champion, Rock-Paper-Scissors Champion, and 3-time NCISAA football state champion.
Ryan’s outgoing, exceptionally funny, and enthusiastic personality always brought joy to his classmates. No matter the time or day – even on Monday mornings – his was happy and kept everyone laughing.
“It takes a lot to put me in a bad mood,” Ryan said. Anyone who knows him would concur.
At Charlotte Christian School he achieved the success most athletes dream about. Playing under the bright lights alongside your best friends every Friday night is an incredible experience, but winning back to back to back state championships sounds like an unattainable fairytale career. Yet, it was Ryan’s reality.
He has a difficult time picking one moment, play, or game that was more special than the rest. But, one aspect of the Knights teams sticks out in his memory – the camaraderie.
“It was great to see egos be put aside and everyone come together in sight of a common goal whether you are a five-star recruit or a kid that wasn’t going to play after high school,” he said.
The recruitment process was less of a fairytale experience.
Plenty of schools wanted him for lacrosse – he ended high school with 14 offers – but he struggled to receive a similar interest from college football coaches.
Programs overlooked him for a few reasons – his size, speed, or a lack of need at the linebacker position.
Throughout the process, he kept hearing the one word athletes don’t want to hear: no.
“It was hard to hear no at first, but it helped me realize that nothing’s handed to you,” said Ryan. “Working for what you want is much better than just having it handed to you.”
When times get rough, Ryan turns to his role model for guidance.
His father, Robert Gilmartin, played a key role in helping Ryan become the remarkable man he is today.
“He came from a family without a dollar to their name and made something of his life. If I can be half the man he is, I’d be satisfied with myself,” he said.
In regards to football, he notes the benefit of having a father who also played college football (at the University of Miami) and understands the challenges Ryan faces. During recruitment, he was by Ryan’s side to talk through each opportunity.
After receiving 12 offers, he narrowed the list down to two – the University of Connecticut and the United States Military Academy.
He felt relieved after coming to a decision the summer before senior year.
On August 2, 2015, Ryan committed to play football for the University of Connecticut. He loves that the school provides a combination of academic excellence with a historically good football team.
“UConn was the total package that I had always been looking for,” he said.
After competing every day in summer ball, coaches at UConn decided to redshirt Ryan for his freshman season.
Transitioning from a leader on the team to a player-in-waiting was a tough adjustment, but he asserts it is one of the most helpful parts of college.
“Minus missing out on actually playing, I see no negatives when it comes to redshirting,” Ryan said.
He still gets to practice on a daily basis and experience game day, but has more time to finish class credits and improve his overall speed and strength so he’s ready come sophomore year.
Two of Ryan’s evident strengths are his lateral speed and football knowledge. As a student of the game, he prepares enough to reach the point where he can call out opponent’s plays before they are run.
Something he continues to work at is adjusting to the speed and complexity of Division 1 football.
The journey hasn’t been easy and the road ahead will only get tougher, but one piece of advice pushes Ryan to go the extra mile to achieve his goal of winning games: If something is worth having, then it’s going to be hard to obtain.
Ryan’s Advice: Never take the game for granted, because no matter how good you are, it ends one day, and in addition, if you can leave the game with no regrets or “I wish”-es then that’d be ideal.