Sarah Ryan has made an impact on and off the basketball court.

“So many things carried over from Sarah in basketball to Sarah in real life,” said Justine Pouravelis, Ryan’s former teammate at McAuley High in Portland. “She has a quick wit and a quick step.”

Another trait that remains consistent, Pouravelis said, is Ryan’s unselfish nature. Better known to the world as the wife of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Sarah has touched lives in both southern Maine and Atlanta with her charm, philanthropy and talent.

Previously Sarah Marshall, the Falmouth native won two state titles with McAuley – now known as the Maine Girls’ Academy – before going on to play point guard for Boston College.

Sarah Ryan will be inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame on May 21 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

“I’m, like, Sarah’s biggest fan,” said Maggie Ryan, Sarah’s older sister. “I’m surprised I’m even married because I went to so many women’s basketball games during my single life.”

When Maggie describes her relationship with Sarah as “very intertwined,” she’s not exaggerating. Maggie is married to Matt Ryan’s brother, Mike. The pair met through Sarah and Matt while tailgating at Boston College football games.

Now, the Marshall and Ryan families have gathered in Houston to watch Matt take on the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Because of the frenzy leading into the game, Sarah told the Maine Sunday Telegram she would not be giving media interviews.

“It’s just crazy – kind of a whirlwind,” Maggie Ryan said. “She’s my younger sister and I look up to how she handles everything.”

Sarah and Matt, both 31, have a tendency to shy away from the spotlight. Maggie said they are both “so humble” and “under the radar” that it’s hard to list everything they do for others.

In 2014, Sarah and Matt established a $125,000 endowment to provide scholarships at McAuley. The first scholarship, a $5,000 gift, was awarded to an incoming freshman for the 2014-15 academic year. Recipients are selected based on their financial need and leadership skills.

Ginger Jones, director of advancement at the Maine Girls’ Academy, said the Ryans’ contributions have had an “enormous impact” on the students now provided an opportunity to attend the school. But Sarah’s mark on the school can be felt in other ways, too.

“She’s definitely a role model for our girls,” Jones said. “There are a lot of students who dream about following in her footsteps.”

Since Matt Ryan’s rookie year with the Falcons in 2008, he and Sarah have been heavily involved in local charities.

During the NFL offseason, Sarah volunteers at the Brookhaven (Georgia) Boys and Girls Club at least three times a week for several hours at a time, typically helping the children with their homework. Ziggy Asfaw, executive director of the club, said Ryan will stand at the front door of the building with a smile, greeting some 40 kids by name as they arrive.

“She’s not worried about any kind of recognition,” Asfaw said. “She just does it because she loves the relationships she has built. She fits right in as if she was a staff member. I consider her a friend.”

Asfaw said you would never know she was married to a professional football player.

“She asks how your day is, how your family is – she wants to know what’s going on with you,” Asfaw said. “She has a big heart.”

Sarah and Matt Ryan met after running into each other at the training and weight rooms as freshmen at Boston College. Sarah started in 92 consecutive games over her last three years and helped the Eagles advance to the NCAA Sweet 16. She finished with 543 career assists – the second most in the program when she graduated in 2007 with a degree in communications.

Sarah went on to work as a sales consultant for the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, and she and Matt married in 2011. Sarah’s friends and family said the fame that comes with being the wife of an NFL superstar hasn’t changed her.

“She has this dry, fantastic sense of humor unlike anybody else I’ve ever met,” Pouravelis said. “You can still see it on social media.”

Sarah’s Twitter account reveals her relatable side. On Aug. 21, 2016, she tweeted: “Finding a parking spot at whole foods on a Sunday continues to be the most competitive thing I’ve done since playing college basketball.”

On July 24, 2016, Sarah shared a screen shot of a text exchange with her husband. “Just changing my shorts,” Matt Ryan sent, to which Sarah replied, “Solid update.” She captioned the photo “#marriage.”

“They’re a perfect complement for each other because he hasn’t changed either,” Maggie said. “Matt is so lucky to be with Sarah because she gets it – the whole life of an athlete. She totally is right in sync with him.”

Despite being the youngest of four girls, Sarah was – as Maggie described – “the ultimate tomboy.”

“One of the worst days of her life was when she got to an age where they told her she was no longer allowed to play on the boys’ basketball and soccer teams,” said Maggie – the second oldest of the Marshall kids. “That was crushing for her.”

However, Sarah didn’t stop competing with the boys at recess. She idolized Cindy Blodgett – the Lawrence High standout – and she wore Allen Iverson’s No. 3 throughout her career.

“You could just tell she was going to be something,” Pouravelis said. “She was legitimately a basketball phenom.”

A three-sport athlete, Sarah transferred from Falmouth High to McAuley as a sophomore, and was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003.

As a junior, she and Pouravelis – a senior at the time – helped the Lions win their first Class A state basketball title.

Pouravelis went on to play for Bowdoin. Both she and Sarah have been inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

“She just has a flawless game,” Pouravelis said. “I had always played one-on-one with guys and I took pride in beating them. Sarah was consistently the only girl who could beat me one-on-one. It would drive me insane.”

Pouravelis recalled Sarah’s eating energy bars while the rest of the team snacked on donuts after school. While Pouravelis was busy making the warmup CD and picking out her high socks, Sarah “cared about the important things.”

“The rest of us were serious, too, but she had this whole different level of discipline,” Pouravelis said. “She’s always sort of had her eye on her goals.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or

[email protected]

Twitter: TaylorVortherms

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