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Matty Ice Moments: 2009 ESPY win for best breakthrough athlete

Ryan won the award following a fantastic rookie season.

17th Annual ESPY Awards - Show Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Last offseason, I wrote a series of Throwback Thursday articles looking back at some of the most memorable moments in Atlanta Falcons history. That series culminated with an article looking back at the time newly minted general manager Thomas Dimitroff drafted Matt Ryan with the third overall pick. Here’s how that specific article concluded:

As you may or may not have noticed, there wasn’t a single one of these articles which was dedicated to any moment in the Matt Ryan era; that was by design. In this upcoming offseason, I hope to write a series of “Matty Ice Moments” articles, which look back on nothing but moments in the Matt Ryan era.

Well, that time has come — welcome to the “Matty Ice Moments” series. This will be a series of articles dedicated to looking back on Matt Ryan-centric moments, in an attempt to help distract us from the dead period a little bit.

And if you don’t like Matt Ryan and think that we’re focusing on him too much this offseason, then that’s just too bad, I guess.


With the ESPYs coming up, I figured it would be topical to have a special “Matty Ice Moments” looking back on Matt Ryan’s ESPY win in 2009.

The ESPYs are ESPN’s yearly award show, done in the same fashion as the Oscars and the Grammys, which aims to recognize the biggest moments and performers in sports from the past year. They always happen in the middle of July, during the MLB All-Star Break, when there’s pretty much nothing happening in sports for a few days.

To be completely honest, the ESPYs don’t really matter. They don’t carry the prestige of the Grammys or the Oscars, and nobody will point to an athletes ESPY win as a legacy enhancer. But it’s a fun event that distracts us from the lack of sports happening in the moment.

Ryan was up for “Best Breakthrough Athlete” in the 2009 rendition of the awards show, competing against gymnast Shawn Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Rose and Longoria are still playing, but we think it’s safe to say that Ryan has put together best career out of that group.

Ryan, who was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, edged out his respectable competition to win the award.

Ryan led the Falcons to an unlikely 11-5 record and playoff berth, shifting the fortunes of a franchise which was in absolute turmoil the year before he arrived.

The Boston College alum tallied 3,440 passing yards, a TD/INT ratio of 17 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, an 87.7 overall passer rating, and four game-winning drives in his rookie season.

His competitors also had very worthy credentials to their names — Shawn Johnson won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Evan Longoria was the MLB’s Rookie of the Year and an All-Star after tallying 27 home runs in just 122 games, and Derrick Rose was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year after averaging 16.8 points per game and 6.3 assists per game for a Bulls team which had a new found hope because of his presence.

Mattie Ice won the day, however, and brought home the ESPY for his trophy case.

He would be up for another ESPY in 2017 for “NFL Player of the Year” but would lose that one to Tom Brady. One would think that he would’ve won that one as well, had Kyle Shanahan just dialed up a few more run plays in the Super Bowl.