Lucas at Large: Ryan in heady company

Bo_PC.jpgBecause he missed being around the game of basketball so much during his military commitment, Bo Ryan knew that he wanted to teach and coach when he got out of the Army in 1971.

Although he could have gone to work for ARCO (Atlantic Richfield), he returned to Chester, Pa.,  and enrolled at Widener College (where his mom worked in the business office).

While getting his teaching certificate in social sciences -- he went heavy on the history courses -- Ryan fed his competitive hunger by playing basketball and touch football.

A defensive back, Ryan was impressed with one of his teammates during their practices; a speedy wide receiver. His name was Vince Papale, a substitute teacher and bartender.

The 2006 movie "Invincible'' documented Papale's road to the NFL. Defying the odds as a 30-year-old rookie who had never played college ball, he survived three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mark Wahlberg was Papale.

Greg Kinnear was Philly coach Dick Vermeil.

Bo Ryan was Bo Ryan -- Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were busy.

Seriously, the UW basketball coach wasn't in the movie, but he's in the 2011 induction class for the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, which will also include Papale and Vermeil.

Ryan teased that he would be asking for autographs, not signing them. "I just look at some of the guys I will be hanging with," he said. "It's a pretty elite group to be a part of. I'm blown away."

Ryan will be inducted with one of the top defensive backs to have ever played for the Badgers -- and the Eagles -- Troy Vincent, who went to five straight Pro Bowls in Philadelphia. One of Philly's Top 50 players all-time, Vincent was also named to the Eagles' 75th anniversary team.

The legendary Dodgers skipper Tom Lasorda, 83, a Norristown, Pa., native, is in the induction class, along with Pete Carril, 80, who won over 500 games coaching basketball at Princeton.

"Pete Carril's reputation," Ryan said, "was that he could take any bunch of guys and still make you play to beat them. He used his talent as well as anyone has ever done in the game."

Two successful Pennsylvania high school coaches are in the Hall of Fame class, too; Mike Pittine Sr. (Central Bucks West) and Patti Hower (Lebanon Catholic). Joining them will be Blair Thomas, the former Penn State tailback; and Doug Overton, who led La Salle to three straight NCAA appearances.

An Olympic gold medalist, Horace Ashenfelter, a steeplechaser in the 1952 games, will be inducted, along with Ken Herock, a Pittsburgh native, and longtime NFL front office executive.

You can see why Ryan is thrilled to be in such company.

"Oh, I will definitely be asking for autographs," he reiterated.

For now, he's putting the finishing touches on the summer camp season.

"When you've been doing this for as long as I have, it's all about the energy that these kids bring, whether they're high school kids or grade school kids or whatever," Ryan said.

"You've got to remember it's not always about playing on TV or getting to the NCAA tournament. It's about their smiling faces and keeping the game alive with these young kids.

"How much fun is a bouncing ball? It's a lot of fun. We can direct their energy to team play and get them to improve as individuals. It hasn't changed since the days when I went to basketball camps.

"I went there to compete and so do these kids."
ON WISCONSIN