Ryan believes Rampage will be better
The fullback, in his seventh year with the Rampage, is one of four returning players from last year's 4-12 season, and he's already noticed a difference in the team.
"You can just tell the difference in the guys," he said. "They want to be here and play. Last year the guys were just here."
Ryan, who was on the Rampage team that won ArenaBowl XV in 2001, said he's noticed how the team has drastically changed.
"It's the atmosphere in the locker room and the quality of players this year," he said. "We have chemistry. It's been a long time since I've been around a core of guys this year."
In fact, Ryan even predicted the Rampage would end the season in territory where they haven't been since 2002.
"We'll be a .500 team or better," he said. "We're looking pretty good."
Ryan will be playing for new coach Steve Thonn, who comes over to the Rampage from the Georgia Force. That move was to Ryan's liking.
"When coach Thonn signed I thought 'score points,'" he said. "Everywhere he went he scored points and he put up a mentality to win. You have to put up points to win and that's what he brings."
Ryan was hesitant to say anything bad about his previous coach, Sparky McEwen, when asked about the difference between the two coaches.
"They both have the same mind set: score," he said. "I don't want to take nothing from nobody. We have a great coaching staff."
Last season Ryan had 77 carries for 162 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Rampage, all of which were career highs. He's second all-time on the Rampage with 671 yards rushing and leads all Grand Rapids rushers with 238 carries and 57 touchdowns. Ryan thinks he'll have even bigger numbers under Thonn's leadership.
"I don't really see (his role) changing," he said. "I think I see my role changing in that I'll carry the ball more this year. We're still going to do our 50-blocks (pass protection blocks). He uses fullbacks a lot in offensive schemes."
Ryan knows what the Rampage have to do to get to the .500 record he's predicting.
"Mistake-free football," he said. "We're going to have to take care of the ball when we have it and score points. We have to get two or three stops on them (opponents) and score every time we touch the ball. We can't make mistakes because they don't make mistakes. When they do make mistakes we have to capitalize on them."
Chip Burch has been covering the Rampage since 2005. He is a sports reporter for WSCG AM-FM in Greenville Michigan, where he currently resides.