Sean Ryan suspected the sport was trying to tell him something when he broke bones three straight years in a Fort Meade recreation football program.
First it was his right arm, the next season his left. Then he broke two fingers on his left hand.
"I thought it was time to give up football," Ryan said.
He did, dabbling in soccer through his freshman year at Broadneck. He lost interest ("It never was my favorite; I just did it to stay in shape"), took a respite from fall sports as a sophomore and looked forward to the basketball and baseball seasons.
However, it went against the Broadneck coaches' grain to see an athlete of Ryan's size (6 feet 7) and ability idle. Tim McMullen, then the athletic director, began to recruit him. So did Ken Kazmarek, then the basketball coach and now athletic director.
"If you play football, it'll make you tougher and prepare you for basketball," Kazmarek said.
Ryan acquiesced and spent his junior year as a backup to quarterback Alan Hartman. Aside from practice drills, his only contact work was in a preseason scrimmage.
"I knew I had a good arm, so I thought if I got a chance to play, fine," Ryan said. "If not, the practices would make me tougher for basketball."
This year, with Hartman graduated, Ryan has blossomed into the leading high school passer in the area. After throwing for 224 yards in Broadneck's 28-20 win over South River Friday, the right-hander has completed 130 of 223 passes for 1,852 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"I was a little gun-shy coming back to football after those broken bones in the Fort Meade program," Ryan said. "I'm surprised I've done this well. Of course, anyone who can throw can come in and be successful with the blocking and receivers we have. "
Ryan pointed out he has been sacked only once, "which tells you how good the line is."
His corps of receivers is headed by Jason Smith, the area's leader with 61 for 966 yards and 14 touchdowns, and includes Matt Kelly, Chris Fullam, Trey Rash, Brian Hannon and Dave Paz.
"They have good hands," Ryan said. "They have confidence in me and I have confidence in them."
Said Kelly, "Sean puts the ball on the money. In the homecoming game against Laurel, he threw a TD pass to me that was perfect. He can place it right in your hands on a long throw and deliver a bullet when you're covered."
This is the second full season that coach Jeff Herrick has employed the run-and-shoot offense. The Bruins pass more than they run, but they don't expect fancy footwork from Ryan.
"If I had to roll out and scramble for my life, I wouldn't be doing that well," Ryan said. "I'm not that agile."
As Herrick tries to get the most out of the run-and-shoot, he has a valuable resource. Assistant coach Duane Elsey is the son-in-law-to-be of Greg McMackin, who coached for years under Mouse Davis, the generally acknowledged founder of the offense. McMackin is on the University of Miami's staff now.
"I called him one Sunday night wondering what we could do against a certain defense a team had thrown at us," Herrick said. "He gave me 12 suggestions, which have translated into six touchdowns."
Ryan frequently offers suggestions during games.
"This is Sean's first year of game competition, and considering that the offense is based on the quarterback's reads and decisions, he's done super," Herrick said. "His footwork has improved, which enhances his height advantage."
In basketball, Ryan is a center who averaged nine points and five rebounds last year. In baseball -- his best sport -- he is a pitcher, who was 6-1 with a 1.38 earned run average.
Chances are he'll be drafted next year, but that doesn't mean he'll skip college.
"I'd have to be drafted on the first round not to go to college," said Ryan.
Nine colleges are pursuing him, as much for his 3.64 grade-point average and No. 38 standing in a class of 292 as for his athletic ability.