Ryan Burroughs is a professional Rugby League player who represents the USA at International level. He also currently plays in Major League Rugby for Old Glory DC, primarily as a winger although, he can also play as fullback or centre. In his first season in Rugby league he scored 33 tries in just ten matches before spells playing in Australia and making his professional debut in England. His biggest achievement was when he played for the USA in the World Cup in 2017 and so far in 8 International matches he has already scored 8 tries for his country.
Ryan told us that he grew up with two older brothers and one older sister although his eldest brother and sister had a different Father to him and his brother Chris, who both ended up with the Father that wasn’t in their lives much at all and even when he was, it just made life even more difficult. Ryan’s Father was an alcoholic who struggled with being abusive a lot of the time, which meant that even in the early years, Ryan was raised mainly by his Mother, who alongside his Grandmother were easily the greatest influences he and his brother could have ever had in life. As a result of his Father’s issues, at around the age of 5, Ryan’s parents ended up going through a divorce which made things even more challenging. There was even one point where Ryan recalls, that his Father kidnapped both he and his brother and took them to their Grandmother‘s house in a completely different state for a while before they were both safely returned home. After that, Ryan mostly grew up without him in the picture but if he went to visit his Grandmother then he would see him through the summers but it was still always a struggle. Ryan’s Mother eventually began a new relationship, when he was about 15 or 16 with a man who Ryan really admires to this day and to have someone who Ryan felt was a good guy in his life and good to his mother as well was something he will be forever thankful for.
When we asked Ryan how he first got started in sports and what the road to becoming a professional athlete was like, he told us that, at the of around 10 or 11 he started playing American football and attended his first sessions for a local team. Unfortunately the coach told him he was too small and that he didn’t want him to get hurt and so Ryan wasn’t offered any opportunity to show what he could do. Off the back of Ryan’s obvious disappointment, his Mother decided to take him to a new team who did let him play and in his very first game, he scored the first touchdown the team had scored that season. He then went on to do pretty well after that going on to play Semi – Pro for a while but over time, was forced to accept he wasn’t quite cut out to make the NFL, which was obviously the dream of almost every young football player in America. Sadly with that realisation, Ryan lost a lot of the passion for the game and eventually quit playing altogether.
After Ryan left school, he started working but is wasn’t long before he made a life changing decision to join the Army. It was while in the Army that Ryan really began to transform his physique in the gym but not only did Ryan start to gain size, he also shot up in height by about 4 – 5 inches. From a scrawny 5 feet 6 to a muscular 5 foot 11ish, the transformation was incredible, so much so, that when he first came out of the Army, his friend started calling him Captain America, due to his story being almost an exact replica of that of the famous Marvel Superhero. After that, it seems that the name just stuck and it is still a name that Ryan is affectionately known by around the world today.
Once Ryan left the Army, he decided to give sport another go. His friend encouraged him to give Rugby a try and from the first time he played, he completely fell in love with the sport. Transferring the gifts and skills he had from football, along with his new found size and strength, meant that Ryan was a success right from the start. In his first season in 2015 as a Semi professional, he scored 33 tries in 10 games in his first season and made the USA National team. He performed so well, that he was invited to go to Australia to develop his game . Ryan learnt fast and in doing so certainly impressed a lot of people and as a result, he was offered his first professional contract with the Toronto Wolfpack based in the UK. In 2017 Ryan was selected and fulfilled a dream of playing in the World Cup for the USA, where he Played against Fiji Italy and Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately in the last game he tore his hamstring off the bone, which was to set him back with his ambitions and prove to be quite a low point in his career.
When he recovered, he was loaned out by Toronto before signing to play in the Championship in England. He then went home to the US. not really sure what he was going to do next, and it was that confusion that led to him doing what he had always done before whenever he needed an answer, which was to pray and ask God to guide him. Ryan recalled that within a couple of hours, he had a phone call and an offer to play in the US for a team called DC Glory in the Major League. It truly was a miracle as not only did he have an answer to his prayer but he now had the opportunity to be playing pro Rugby in the US which to him was another dream come true.
That brought us on to the question of Ryan’s faith and so we asked him to tell us how he found faith in God and how it had helped him as a child and even now. Ryan told us “At about the age of 12, me and my brother went to church with our family. It was a difficult time as we had been evicted and we were all struggling with our own hurts as a family. At church I remember they asked who wanted to accept Jesus and although I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, my brother put his hand up and so I did too. Suddenly though I felt a big sense of relief, as if in that moment, everything that happened in the past didn’t matter. From that point on, I felt like I knew who I didn’t want to be and knew I wanted to be someone. Even before then though I always felt that there was a God. Even from the age of five I would sit and think and wonder what’s out there and what’s my purpose. After that day I put my hand up, I realised things had changed for the better I now knew that any time I was having a bad day or a bad time, that if no physical person was there, I could pray and talk to God and know things would work out.
When we asked Ryan what he would want you guys to learn from his story and what his final message to you all was, he told us this “Ultimately it doesn’t matter where you start, you can start at the bottom and you can choose to sulk or you can use all the tools that God has given you to build your life and become a better person. Life is full of ups and downs but whatever happens, happens for a reason. Whether it’s to teach you a big lesson or a little one you can learn something through every situation. Just remember, no matter how bad things get, every storm eventually runs out of rain and after that, God will always bring your through to a brighter tomorrow.
Ryan is now looking forward to a great rest of the season with an ambition to be the top try scorer in the Major League. He’ll then go on to play in the Nines World Cup tournament in October for the USA, where again he’ll be hoping to be successful and of course, we’ll be hoping and praying that he has an amazing next few months too.