Growing up in a red-state corner of California, the not-so-subtle messages he heard as a young man routinely equated being gay with disease and death. Letting people in on the darkest secret he kept buried inside was not an option, and it never would be.
Ryan never envisioned just how far his football career would take him. He was recruited by the University of California, Berkeley. Then it was on to the NFL for stints with the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bubbling under the surface of Ryan's entire NFL career was a collision course between his secret sexuality and his hidden drug use. As injuries mounted and his daily intake of opioids reached a near-lethal level, he wrote his suicide note to his parents and plotted his death.
Yet someone had been watching. A member of the Chiefs organization stepped in, recognizing the signs of drug addiction. Ryan reluctantly sought psychological help, and it was there that he revealed his lifelong secret for the very first time. Nearing the twilight of his career, Ryan faced the ultimate decision: end it all, or find out if his family and football friends could ever accept a gay man in their lives.