NORTH WILDWOOD — Most North Wildwood full-time and summer residents will be pulling for the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
That’s because Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and his extended family have spent their summers in the resort for decades.
“My family has had a house there for a long time,” Ryan said in a phone interview in November. “I enjoy spending a few weeks down there whenever I can.”
Their house is on Ocean Avenue between 14th and 15th avenues.
It began as a modest cottage owned by Ryan’s grandfather, Sam Loughery. As the family expanded over the years, so did the property. It’s now three stories tall and has undergone several renovations to accommodate the brood that now includes more than 50 members of the Loughery, Ryan, McGlinchey and McCain families.
Yes, I feel deflated after a blown weather forecast.
Locals refer to it as the Ryan family compound.
“It’s just a half-block from our headquarters,” North Wildwood Beach Patrol chief Tony Cavalier said. “The whole family is on the beach right in front of us almost every day.”
The local beach patrols have been a big part of the family’s life.
Cousins Pat McCain, Jake McCain and Frank McGlinchey are all lifeguards in North Wildwood. Mike Ryan, Matt’s older brother, was on the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol. Jake and Frank placed third last August in the rookie doubles row during the Tri-Woods Lifeguard Championships.
Matt participated in North Wildwood’s Junior Lifeguard program in the late 1990s. Although his football career prevented him from joining the Beach Patrol, he is still known to show up to root for relatives and friends at lifeguard races, especially the annual Beschen-Callahan race hosted by North Wildwood.
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“We went to Boston College at the same time and knew each other casually,” U.S. Olympic triathlete and Wildwood Crest native Joe Maloy said. “In 2008, I had just graduated from B.C. and was competing in the run-swim for the Crest in Beschen-Callahans. I was wearing a pair of Boston College shorts when I was warming up for my race and ran into him.
“I wound up winning the race, and that was part of my motivation. There was no way I was going to lose in front of Matt Ryan.”
Last August, Maloy was the top U.S. finisher in the men’s triathlon at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The night before the race, Maloy watched a video in which various Wildwood-area friends and officials wished him luck. It included a message from Ryan.
“You’ve made us all very proud at B.C. and down the shore,” Ryan said on the video. “I’ll be watching and wishing you the best.”
Sports are also big with the family during their summer vacations.
Cousin Mike McGlinchey, who is now a starting offensive tackle for Notre Dame, played in the North Wildwood Recreation Department’s summer basketball league as recently as 2011.
Matt, who starred in both football and basketball at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, played in the Rec’s College/Men’s summer league a few years earlier.
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“Matt played in the men’s league once in a while,” said North Wildwood resident Billy Rutherford, who is now a basketball official. “I remember him scoring 40 (points) against our team once.”
In the summer of 2003, Matt scored 49 points in a game. According to the rec department, that still ranks second all time in the league.
But football is most important.
Matt’s uncle John Loughery preceded Matt at Boston College, where he was a teammate of Doug Flutie’s. In addition to Mike McGlinchey, Ryan has three cousins, Pat McCain (wide receiver, Dickinson College), Jake McCain (linebacker, Ursinus) and Frank McGlinchey (linebacker Franklin & Marshall) who play college football.
On early summer evenings, they have been known to gather for pickup football games at Bill Henfey Park, located at Eighth and Central avenues in North Wildwood.
“You know how some families go bike riding when they’re on vacation?” said Bill Ciaverelli, North Wildwood Beach Patrol captain and a Philadelphia-area football and basketball official. “Well, that family tosses the pigskin around.
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“We have a rule against playing ball on the beach, so they’d go over to the park to work out. It’s pretty cool to see all of them together.”
Matt Ryan obviously doesn’t participate in the pickup games anymore, but he does sometimes go over to throw a few passes just to keep sharp before reporting to Falcons training camp.
Even after he leaves for the season, he still maintains contact with his Wildwood-area buddies.
“The Ryans are good people,” said John Lynch, an Atlanta native who is now director of sales and entertainment for the Wildwoods Convention Center. “Being from Atlanta, I’m obviously a huge Falcons fan and I’ve known Matt and and his family for a long time. I’m so excited that the Falcons are in the Super Bowl, but I’m even more excited for Matt.”
He’s not alone.
Although the Wildwoods are considered Philadelphia Eagles territory — Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is even reportedly building a house in the Coconut Cove complex in North Wildwood — they will be cheering for the Falcons in the Super Bowl.
“It’s true that we are Eagles fans for the most part,” Ciaverelli said. “But since they’re not in the Super Bowl, we want to root for someone who’s somewhat local. I guess Philadelphia and North Wildwood can both claim ownership of Matt Ryan.”