Matt Ryan is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, but he had some unfinished business in Atlanta. This weekend, the quarterback returned to his former city to surprise hundreds of young athletes from local Atlanta-based nonprofits to run drills, play games and help hand out 10,000 gifts of sports equipment with DICK's Sporting Goods as part of the Sports Matter Giving Truck tour.
"It was awesome," Ryan told CBS Sports about the event. "It was cool to surprise the kids and get to answer some of their questions, spend some time with them, fire some t-shirts into the stands, see if they can catch or not. But I think it really is a great thing that DICK's is doing with Sports Matter Day. Because growing up, sports have been a huge part in my life and obviously mattered greatly to me. But I also think the values that you can learn, the lessons that you learn from playing sports like teamwork, hard work, discipline -- it's cool to recognize that."
The former NFL MVP will be back in Indianapolis soon to rejoin his teammates. Ryan has actually already been taking part in the Colts' offseason program, and wearing non-Falcons colors was almost a bit jarring.
"It takes a little getting used to," Ryan said with a laugh. "I think I still had white and red cleats on because I don't have the white and blue ones yet, so there was still a little of the old throwback there. It was fun, but it's definitely been an adjustment for sure, and getting used to some new stuff, new facility, new players ... but exciting! To me, that part -- that's a lot of fun. It's like a first day of school. I've kind of gotten that feeling back and it's been a lot of fun."
Ryan is clearly feeling rejuvenated with this change of scenery, and he said he's been soaking up that rookie feeling again.
"It's been really cool," said Ryan. "You got that nervous excitement heading into the building for the first time, and you got new teammates, new coaches, asking where the cafeteria is at, where's the team meeting room. This is the stuff I haven't had to do in a long time. And that part is definitely rejuvenating, exciting and a lot of fun. I feel like my energy has been great, the energy in the building has been great and just looking forward to trying to build with these guys and see how connected we can get this offseason and give ourselves a chance to be successful in training camp."
While Ryan is excited to begin a new chapter in his football career, he's closing another. The 36-year-old spent 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. Everyone knew Ryan wouldn't be Atlanta's signal-caller forever, but divorce proceedings were expedited when the franchise showed interest in Deshaun Watson. The Falcons wanted to explore other options, so Ryan did the same.
"I think it's just the nature of the business," Ryan said when asked if he felt disrespected this offseason. "I was so fortunate and lucky for 14 years to do it in the same spot. It's rare. That just doesn't happen very often. There's no bitterness or anything like that. I think it's just the nature of the sport that we play and where the Falcons organization was at, and what they felt like they needed to do to move forward, so I totally understand that part of it. It doesn't make it any easier, I'm not saying that. But there were no bad feelings. To me, it was a part in my career where it's time to do something new, and have a new challenge, new opportunity in a new building. And for that, I'm very excited, and just thankful for everything that came before it, too. The 14 years were incredible."