UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz stands in front of a chalkboard where he solved math problems and drew up football plays. Metz is a math major with a concentration in secondary education. Photo: J.R. Hernandez / UTEP Communications
A Division I athletic scholarship has created a world of opportunities for Ryan Metz at The University of Texas at El Paso, and he expects those opportunities to continue long after graduation.
Metz is working hard to make it to the NFL but also is making plans for another career. After initially studying civil engineering, Metz switched his major.
“I decided I wanted to be around football as long as possible, and so I ended up switching to math and secondary education,” Metz said. “One, so I can be a coach, and two, I got into math because math has always been my favorite subject … I always want to know that I’ll have a secure job.”
Earning an athletic scholarship to UTEP was a long journey for Metz that almost ended before it even began. Support from his family, particularly his parents, helped keep him on track.
“If my parents didn’t encourage me to keep playing, I wouldn’t be playing,” Metz said as he recalled his days as a 9-year-old tight end/defensive end for the Northeast Raiders. “First day in pads I was like, ‘This isn’t for me.’ I didn’t want to play any more. [My parents] said, ‘Just stick it out one year, play one season and if you don’t like it anymore, you don’t have to play next year.’”
Growing up, Metz recalls going to UTEP football games and watching star players including Jordan Palmer and Trevor Vittatoe.
“When I was young, I was like, ‘Man, how cool would it be to be in that uniform?’” he recalled. Now, he’s “living the dream,” he said.
Of four schools pursuing him in high school, only UTEP offered Metz an athletic scholarship.
“My dad and I talk about this all the time,” Metz said. “It couldn’t have been a better offer. To be here, it’s such a blessing because I’m able to see my parents very frequently, I’m able to see my brother.”
His support system has grown to include his teammates and even his non-football-playing friends and roommates at UTEP.
Perseverance and patience got him through that season as a 9-year-old and have helped during his football career. He eventually made the switch to quarterback in seventh grade and has played the position ever since, but Metz had to work hard to get the starting quarterback position at UTEP.
“I’ve always just tried to be the patient kind,” Metz said. “Things aren’t going to just fall into your lap. I think that’s something that I needed was that patience and to experience those lows to be humble. My freshman year (at UTEP) I did pretty well, I was kind of riding a high.”
Then came the game against The University of Texas at San Antonio.
“I hit my valley and I was able to experience what it was like to have the worst game of my life,” he recalled about the match during his freshman year when Metz finished the game 22-of-48 for 212 yards, four interceptions and a touchdown. Two of the interceptions were returned for a touchdown. “It was tough to move on from that. There are a lot of times I go through a practice now and I think about all the bad things that I did [in that game].”
Metz, now a junior, feels blessed to have this second chance given to him by Coach Sean Kugler. He doesn’t want to waste the chance because he doesn’t know if he’ll get a third.
“(Ryan) is a quality kid. He’s a leader and a competitor,” Kugler said. “He was probably out [on the field] too early in his career. He just wasn’t quite ready yet, but no fault of his, he just had to be ready. Now he’s ready. It’s his time, he’s put in the work and he’s very productive when he’s played. Our offense, when he was inserted in last year, averaged over 30 points per game from the time he was the quarterback till the end of the season. The team rallies around him and he’s got a great demeanor. We’re excited about Ryan and what he can do for the program this season.”
One memorable game in which the team rallied around Metz was against rival New Mexico State University in 2015. Going into the game, Metz was second on the depth chart and only had a few snaps in a couple of regular season games at the beginning of that season. UTEP’s starting quarterback, Mack Leftwich, was knocked out of the game and Metz went in with the Miners down by seven points.
It was the perfect time for Metz to be the hero.
With his first pass of the game, he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
“I got back to the sideline and said, ‘Well, it can’t get worse than this,’” Metz recalled, as the Miners were down 14 points on the road.
Metz’s confidence didn’t waver and he led the team to a 50-47 overtime win, including going 15-for-19 for 218 yards and three touchdowns.
With the 2017 season underway, Metz has been named the starter, but he isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I still see it as a competition,” Metz said. “I perform better under pressure. I should have the confidence to say ‘Hey, this is mine. This is my job.’ But I don’t ever want to go in there and think, ‘This is mine; I don’t have to do anything for it.”
Metz also knows that the hard work and generosity of athletic donors has paid for his opportunity to pursue a football career and a college education, and he doesn’t take that for granted.
“Receiving a scholarship from UTEP really has meant everything for me,” Metz said. “Down the line it’s not only paid for my schooling, it’s going to open so many doors for me. I’ve made so many connections.”
Learn more about the Raise the Pick campaign.
Author: Leonard Martinez – UTEP Communications | Raise the Pick: This is the first article in a series featuring UTEP student-athletes who share their unique stories and how athletic scholarships have made a difference in their lives. Each of these students reflects on the value of their UTEP experiences and the opportunities they are creating for the future. Visit minerathleticclub.com to learn more about the Raise the Pick campaign.