October 13, 2007

Mr. Catch

Oct. 13, 2007

By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Being willing to be very physical but also having the knowledge to read defenses are two great qualities to have if you want to be an outstanding wide receiver. Senior Ryan Maher not only uses those two skills but excels at them, making him the best wide receiver in the Patriot League and one of the best in the nation.

So far this season, Maher has continued his success from a year ago. Through five games, he has totaled a team-best 34 receptions for 379 yards and five touchdowns, with many of those receptions being tough catches over the middle with a hard tackle from a defender waiting. If that is what takes for Holy Cross to win the game Maher is more than willing to be physical. "I want to execute my assignment to the best of my ability every play," said Maher. "Whether it is blocking the defender or making a play with the ball in my hands."

Maher also excels in being one step ahead of the defense in terms of football knowledge, and that is what separates him and makes him a top wide receiver. "I've learned that as much as football is an aggressive contact sport, thinking is as much of a factor as any of the physical part," said Maher.

He attributes his ability to be physical and to out think an opponent to head coach Tom Gilmore, along with coaches Chris Pincince and Johnny Cox. "Coach Gilmore has taught me the importance of working hard and pushing my limits," said Maher. "What I've learned from coach Pincince is the importance of being a smart football player and keeping my composure. Coach Cox's emphasis on the technical parts of being a wide receiver has taught me what the difference is between being a great wideout and a good wideout."

Determination is also a quality that Maher has. After making four receptions with no starts in his first two seasons as a Crusader, he worked as hard as he could and was determined to be a key player and a major contributor in Holy Cross winning games. His strong work ethic was noticed by the coaches. "Ryan has really matured and has taken his game to the next level, and we expect him to improve even more with all the hard work he has done," said Gilmore. His determination was demonstrated when he was ranked ninth in the country in receptions as a junior and received numerous accolades, including being named to the All-Patriot League first team and the New England Football Writers All-Star team.

Maher's winning attitude matches the attitude of the team. "Our team knows what it feels like to lose the close one, and we also know what it feels like to win those games," said Maher. "Having that winning feeling drives us and motivates us in close situations, to the point where we are confident in our ability to come out with a victory."

As one of the key offensive players for Holy Cross, Maher knows that the offense has been successful so far because it has worked as a team. "I'm very excited about our offense," said Maher. "We all have one year under our belts now, and we know what we are capable of and what it takes to win. We also have faith in each other that we can get the job done. Our line is doing a great job of protecting, our running backs do it all, our quarterbacks provide amazing leadership and I feel like we have a very special group of receivers who can make exceptional plays."

A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Maher is the second youngest of six children, and he attributes a lot of his success on and off the football field to having a strong family. "I've been lucky enough to have a great support system and group of teachers from my siblings and parents," said Maher. His father has made it to every game so far this season, while his mother, brothers, sisters and niece have all made time to make it up all the way from Florida to see his play at least once.

Maher also comes from a very athletic family as his brother, Casey, played football at Randolph-Macon College and his sister, Kelly, played soccer at the University of Florida, and was a member of the Gators' 1998 national championship team. "In terms of football, my older brother Casey has been my best mentor," said Maher. "Sharing his knowledge and experiences as a college football player has been beneficial for me. He has also been a great coach in the off season by pushing me in my summer workouts."

Maher started playing flag football when he was six and then moved to tackle football when he was 10, as he always knew he wanted to play college football. "Football has always been my favorite sport and I loved watching the Florida Gators play as a kid," said Maher. He also has quite a deep athletic background as he played soccer, basketball, baseball and lacrosse before coming to Holy Cross.

When it was time to choose colleges, Maher was very impressed with Holy Cross not only in terms of football but also with the total collegiate experience that Holy Cross provides its students. "I chose Holy Cross because of the outstanding academic and athletic tradition, as well as the family atmosphere that I felt when I came on my visit," said Maher. "My time at Holy Cross has been a wonderful learning and growing experience. I will leave Holy Cross with a lot great friendships."

Maher is not big into pre-game routines, but family always is a strong theme for him in his every day life and when he is getting ready for a game. "I don't think pre-game routines have much of an effect on the way you play, but I do say a prayer before every game, thanking God for my family, my health and my teammates," said Maher.

This story originally appeared in the October 13 edition of the Holy Cross Gameday program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Dartmouth. To order a copy of the program, click here.