A year after Sept. 11: Ryan and Sports Illustrated

Ryan head coach Joey Florence talks to his team following a victory against Fort Worth Dunbar on Sept. 6, 2002, almost a year after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. (file photo/The Dallas Morning News)

A year after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Sports Illustrated went on a “football odyssey – a five-game, five-day, 5,520-mile trip to bring the game home,” according to the cover of the historic magazine issued on Sept. 16, 2002.

The five games included three NFL games (Pittsburgh vs. New England, San Francisco v. New York, St. Louis vs. Denver), a college football game (Miami vs. Florida) and a high school game.

Listed on SI’s cover in the same font and the same size as some of the other games was the high school contest the magazine chose – Ryan High vs. Dunbar High.

Ryan was coming off its first Class 4A state championship in 2001 and its second consecutive state championship appearance. The Raiders were in the midst of their legendary run at the start of the millennium and the magazine picked the game between Ryan and Fort Worth Dunbar to “capture the essence of football, its place in the American social fabric, as a terror-stricken nation deals with the first anniversary of 9/11.”

“We were highly ranked and had some key players – James Battle, Jarvis Moss and those guys – I don’t really how they picked us, but they did. It was interesting,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “He wanted to ride to the game with us and do a little exposé on Texas high school football.”

Florence’s only copy of the magazine is neatly mounted in the Ryan fieldhouse.

The fieldhouse boasts a diverse amount of items to show just how good Ryan has been since the turn of the decade:  the team’s two state championship trophies and three runner-up trophies, the many golden footballs won for playoff victories, the portraits of the all-state players, all-district players, college players, NFL players and the school’s three head coaches.

Florence, who’s been with the program since 2000, added the magazine to the walls in the fieldhouse to add to the rich legacy the program’s built in the last 13 years.

“When things like that come up, we put that up,” Florence said.  “It’s important because you’ll see kids at all different times of the day reading those articles. You just what them to know that there’s been success here and there’s been tradition here. It becomes that much more important to those kids.”

It was fitting that SI picked Ryan, a team in the midst of a run that included four straight state championship appearances. The team was originally going to be called the Patriots, but instead the nickname was changed after people protested the Ryan mascot holding a rifle. So instead, the Patriot was traded in for a Raider holding two pistols.

And so, as the team opened the season against Dunbar on Sept. 6, 2002, seven days before the team’s only loss of the season against Ennis and five days before the one-year anniversary of an atrocious terrorist attack, Mike Silver joined the Raiders team to document the team, one of his five stops on a 5,520-mile journey to bring the game home.

To read Mike Silver’s story published in the Sept. 16, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated, click here

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