Inside Ryan Boyle's Beautiful Mind and Hall of Fame Career
Nine lacrosse legends — Ryan Boyle, Charlie Coker, Kara Ariza Cooke, Rachael Becker DeCecco, Sarah Forbes, Cathy Reese, Paul Schimoler, Richard Speckmann and Matt Striebel will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Oct. 19 at The Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md. These are their stories.

Ryan Boyle sauntered to the line of scrimmage and saw an 11-man front ready to pounce. The play called for him to hand off the football off to an electrifying running back named Darnell Stewart. He knew it. They knew it.

Boyle audibled to a tight end post and fired a spiral deep down the middle for a completion.

He was 10.

“It sounds so archaic. It’s so obvious,” Boyle said, remembering 27 years later the lessons he learned playing Pop Warner football. “You just have to have the gumption to call the play.”

Boyle never lacked for nerve, that’s for sure. Combined with a rare intellect, his confidence produced one of the most brilliant lacrosse careers we’ve ever seen. Boyle was a four-time All-American at Princeton and five-time MLL All-Star, and he played in three world championships for the U.S. national team.

On Saturday, Boyle will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md., just minutes from his childhood home. Matt Striebel, Boyle’s teammates at all three levels (college, pro and international), will share that stage, each as the other’s presenter.

“You hear people talk about Ryan’s game and compare him to Peyton Manning or Steve Nash because of how he plays the game, how he distributes, how he reads the defense, how he reads the offense or how he understands the game,” Striebel said. “But it doesn’t get at the depth of the impact that he has on really making guys around him better.”

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Striebel learned that the hard way in 2001, when a highly touted freshman out of Baltimore’s Gilman School supplanted him as Princeton’s go-to attackman behind the goal. Striebel played soccer in the fall. He had heard of Boyle, but upon first glance at the 5-foot-11, 180-pound wunderkind that spring, he wondered what all the hype was about.

“I was like, ‘This is the guy? This is the guy that’s going to take my job away from me?’ He’s an unassuming person,” Striebel said. “And then you see him on the field. I had to go through jealousy and envy to get to respect and admiration with Ryan.”

Striebel and Boyle were like oil and water as attack line mates. Striebel often ran around without rhyme or reason, at least not that which Boyle could comprehend. After two games, Princeton coach Bill Tierney and offensive coordinator Dave Metzbower ended the experiment.

“Coach T and Coach Metz brought me into the office and say, ‘Hey Striebs, you’ve had a great run. We’re moving you to midfield,’” Striebel said.

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“He’s the proverbial Renaissance man.”
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Tierney famously called Boyle the smartest player in the game. That didn’t happen accidentally. It happened through osmosis.

Growing up in Cockeysville, Md., Boyle said, he had access to the sport’s best educators, “regardless if it was rec, club or my brother [Michael] in the backyard.” That only continued at Gilman with John Tucker and Princeton with Metzbower, transcendent offensive minds.

“I was learning what a rocker step was before there was even a term rocker step. Metz and I were experimenting with two-man games at goal line extended before the term razor pick was invented,” Boyle said. “I enjoyed the technical aspect, their passion for exploration, to dabble and do something different.”

Boyle continued with football through high school, twice earning Baltimore All-Metro honors and setting the league record for completion percentage. He gravitated toward the dark room where the offensive coordinator, also his middle school science teacher, would break down film with him.

There were rumors Boyle would play both sports at Princeton, but lacrosse was his true calling. As the No. 1 recruit in the country, he lived up to the billing, leading the Tigers to an NCAA championship as a freshman in 2001. Boyle assisted B.J. Prager’s game winner in overtime to beat Syracuse in the final.

Boyle went on to become a four-time All-American at Princeton. He was a Tewaaraton finalist as a senior in 2004, when he strapped the Tigers onto his shoulders and carried them to the final four. Princeton trailed Maryland by two goals with two minutes left in the NCAA quarterfinals. Boyle scored twice unassisted, including the equalizer with 12 seconds remaining, then set up Peter Trombino for the game-winning goal in overtime.

“Anyone who doubts the size of Ryan Boyle’s heart hasn’t been around him for four years,” Tierney said then.

Added Boyle: “The thought that this might be the end of my career never entered my mind.”

Boyle played on U.S. teams in 2002, 2006 and 2010, earned NLL and MLL Rookie of the Year honors and won four MLL titles with the Philadelphia Barrage and Boston Cannons.

That beautiful mind of his now imparts knowledge on fans as a college lacrosse and Premier Lacrosse League analyst for ESPN and NBC Sports, respectively, and on the next generation of stars with Trilogy Lacrosse, which he co-founded in 2005 with his former Gilman and Princeton teammate, Rob Lindsey.

“A huge part of why I’ve been able to enjoy any success within the sport is the culture I grew up in,” Boyle said, “both in my nuclear family and the community around me.”

Asked about Boyle’s ability to see plays develop and calmly orchestrate others in the most stressful of circumstances, if it’s innate or a byproduct of Boyle’s environment as he suggested, Streibel said it’s a little bit of both.

“I’ve met Ryan’s parents. I know that it’s nurtured,” Striebel said. “Yet I also have this image of Ryan being born into the hospital, organizing all the little babies into the appropriate way to break down a zone defense or run a 1-3-2, telling them they should go here for dinner if they’re in the East Village or that they should watch this if they have the time.”

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Boyle always has marched to the beat of his own drum. He treats the sport like his inner sanctum. When he’s not on air or being interviewed, he’ll talk lacrosse only with a select few. That group grew smaller when his uncle, renowned lacrosse official Scott Boyle, died on the field at Navy in 2005, and when Rob Lindsey Sr. died of lung cancer in 2007.

Even Striebel, who works for Trilogy and coaches at Northampton High School in Massachusetts, steers clear of the subject. His conversations with Boyle veer from their mutual admiration for the otherwise obscure Australian basketball player Aron Baynes to their varied tastes for music and food.

“He’s the proverbial Renaissance man,” Striebel said.

When Boyle moved off campus as a junior at Princeton, he lived with teammates Damien Davis and Matt Trevenen in a 3,000 square-foot, hollowed-out barn in which the kitchen overlooked the living room. They planned their days not around lacrosse, but food. Trevenen had taken cooking courses while studying abroad in Italy, and Boyle learned some elementary knife skills while working at a Princeton restaurant as a freshman.

“Since I’ve known Ryan, we’ve probably had two conversations about lacrosse,” Trevenen said when interviewed for an article for Lacrosse Magazine in 2006. “The cooking really bonded us.”

During a photo shoot for the article (“The Consummate Feeder,” December 2006), Boyle whipped up spicy ginger and garlic shrimp lettuce cups, a soba noodle dish and seared sushi-grade tuna.

“Some people have music; some people have painting,” Boyle said then. “This is my creative outlet.”

Boyle’s creativity in the kitchen belies his analytical approach to sports. Though he doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

“A lot of us enjoy what we’re good at,” he said. “It’s the feedback loop.”

And there’s that gumption.

In the 2010 world championship final in Manchester, England, U.S. head coach Mike Pressler had strict orders that players were not to call timeouts. But Boyle — who notoriously did not play in the gold medal game four years earlier, as the U.S. lost to Canada for the first time in nearly 30 years — did just that.

Less than four minutes remained, the U.S. led Canada by one, and a chaotic ground-ball sequence unfolded. Boyle emerged from the scrum with the ball in his stick and immediately called timeout. Pressler’s angry glare peered from underneath his sunglasses as Boyle jogged to the sideline.

After the timeout, the U.S. spread out its offense and played keep-away until Canada was forced to play chase. The U.S. drew a penalty, Canada emptied its net in a desperate attempt to get the ball back and Mike Leveille scored a man-up goal to ice a 12-10 victory.

The ball was in Boyle’s stick as time expired.

“Whichever team he’s on, by default he becomes the brains of that operation,” Striebel said. “When stuff is hitting the fan, you’re thinking, ‘What are we supposed to do now?’ and everyone is looking at each other, the first person you look at is Ryan. He’s never ruffled. He always has an answer. And he’s able to articulate it to a group of guys and say, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do right now. Follow me and let’s go.’”

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Boyle's rare intellect and gumption produced one of the most brilliant lacrosse careers we've ever seen.
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PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER
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PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

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