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Why Matt Ryan's singular focus led him to the Indianapolis Colts

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The summertime family football games on the Jersey Shore were as competitive as they were physical. And, if we're being honest, Matt Ryan had no business participating. He was the youngest of the cousins, brothers and uncles recklessly throwing their bodies around for bragging rights. In the grand scheme, that never got them very far, unless you include the distance to the local emergency room. But all these years later, even after beginning his 15th NFL season -- his first with the Indianapolis Colts -- Ryan knows he shouldn't have been out there, underage and undersized as he was, and in a family that boasts numerous high-level athletes. "I had to make sure I could keep up, shut up, not cry, not whine, not do any of those things, so that they would include me," Ryan said. "And you had to be good enough to where they were like, 'Yeah, he's cool.' "It was not me competing against the other 10-year olds. For whatever reason, I just always felt like I could keep up and probably had this irrational sense of self-confidence and self-belief." EDITOR'S PICKS Indianapolis Colts' supporting cast around Matt Ryan needs to carry its weight 1dStephen Holder Barnwell: Which NFL contenders should be worried after Week 1? What we learned Sunday 3dBill Barnwell It's now more than a quarter-century later. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Ryan is no longer the youngest kid on the field. In fact, at 37, Ryan was the oldest player on the field Sunday when the Colts and Houston Texans played to a 20-20 season-opening tie. But that irrational sense of self-confidence still defines him.