Predictions about players who could at any time suffer a Joe Theismann moment are tricky. But since the former altar boy arrived in 2008 like a carved-from-cream-cheese Ken doll quarterback that owner Arthur Blank ordered from the “Please Save This Franchise” catalog, Ryan’s impact has extended beyond the Dome. Yes, the third overall draft pick and team captain is well on his way to proving he’s worth the $72 million Blank threw at him—even with the latest 13–3, comeback-heavy season ending on a sour note. But Ryan, who turns twenty-six this month, has also served as a saintly sorbet to a city eager to expunge the bitter taste of Mike Vick disillusionment. He’s given time and money to multiple charities, including next month’s inaugural Matt Ryan Celebrity-Am Classic to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and his own foundation. That’s enough for the city to hope for more.
Sporty Spice Ryan and his equally sporty college sweetheart, Sarah Marshall, were recently married; Marshall, a standout basketball player at Boston College, was twice named the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year in high school.
Photograph courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons