By Kevin Eickman
In order to have a successful high school football team, the one thing that you need are players, ones committed to hard work and dedication. Over the last 11 seasons, Milford has been blessed to have Ryan McNulty at the helm of the middle school program. Taking a look at how many players that have gone straight from middle school to starting at the varsity level at Milford has been extraordinarily high. While a portion of those athletes might have been rushed a bit to start at the varsity level, the vast majority of those players came in ready to play, earning spots on merit.
While there is no arguing the quality of players that McNulty has produced, what has always been impressive is the character of the majority of individuals he has given the high school team to work with. Having spent the last 10 seasons on the Milford sidelines, I can attest to the spirit, commitment and maturity of the players he has supplied to Milford. While moving on is never easy, McNulty feels as if he needs to focus a little more attention to the future student-athletes that he and his wife Sarah are raising. McNulty has two daughters, Alayana (8) and Reagan (2), and a son Garrett (6) who are all starting to find their athletic paths. “Alayana and Garrett are already into jujitsu and eyeing other sports and I suspect Reagan won’t be far behind,” McNulty said. “I could probably still coach, but it would be a real stretch. It would not be fair to the middle school and it wouldn’t be fair to my children. Eventually, I feel that both would suffer because of me trying to do too much.”
When asked what he enjoyed most about coaching middle school football, McNulty was quick to respond. “Watching the kids grow, without a doubt. For the most part, they come in lacking confidence and are at an awkward stage in their lives age-wise,” he said. “Watching them slowly grow over time however, you can see them shed their inhibitions and grow into young men, ready for the rigors of high school that are in front of them.” I also asked him to name a few players off the top of his head, who he knew had something special, McNulty was not as quick to answer. “I have had so many great players come through, to pick out just a couple would be unfair.” When pressed, McNulty responded “The best pure athlete was Brion Murray, he was so athletically gifted and so instinctual, there was no doubt in my mind he had the ability to turn out very special. David Bowman would be another. I didn’t have to teach him a thing. It was like he was born to be a football player. He was special all through middle school, high school and he isn’t finished with college yet.” The final player McNulty mentioned is currently on the varsity squad, junior quarterback Shawn Saxon. “Shawn has a very high ceiling, it is going to be very interesting to see how far he can go.”
Speaking with current Milford High School head coach, Shaun Strickland, he offered high praise for the job McNulty has done over the last 11 years. “He gave me so many guys that I could just plug into positions as freshman, it was incredible. It wasn’t just about starters either, it was about guys that would become solid football players further on down the line,” Strickland said. “He was able to explain what each player needed to make themselves better and what made them tick. Things like that are so valuable when you are developing football players.”
McNulty will still be announcing games under the Friday night lights at Briggs Stadium – something he takes great pleasure in. “There is nothing like calling a game on a Friday night, I got started in the field really by accident. Back in 2008, I was supposed to be doing spotting duty up in the booth for the announcer,” he said. “At halftime however, the announcer asked if I wanted to give it a try. I took him up on it and have been behind the microphone ever since.”
McNulty is also a member of the 12th Man Gridiron Club Hall of Fame, inducted as part of the 2015 class. A true credit to the Milford community, McNulty garnered enshrinement based on the following accomplishments, while a Buccaneer: McNulty compiled a tremendous list of accomplishments during his time as a member of the team: three time Academic All Conference, 2001 Defensive Player of the Year, 2002 Defensive Player of the Year and 2003 Most Valuable Player