By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Overcoming adversity is nothing new to Westwood’s Ryan Farrell after battling back from a serious leg injury that cost him his senior season at Xaverian Brothers High School in 2011. It was an almost worst-case scenario for a recruited player with his eyes on playing college football. The leg break could have easily derailed his football career, given both the nature and timing of the injury.
It didn’t stop the young man from Westwood from battling back and becoming one of the Colonial Athletic Association’s top linebackers in 2016.
Instead of throwing in the towel on football after breaking his leg and missing his senior season at Xaverian, Farrell underwent a grueling rehab stint while he watched his Hawks finish the 2011 season at 6-5.
Despite not suiting up during his senior year, he was still able to earn a football scholarship at UNH. Farrell, who is extremely thankful for the opportunity granted to him by the University of New Hampshire and their coaching staff, reflected back on his long road from Westwood to Durham, New Hampshire over the last six years.
“The injury was tough,” said Farrell. “I can’t thank the coaches at UNH enough for sticking with me and giving me the opportunity to come here even after missing my senior year [at Xaverian]. I’m very grateful for being a part of such a great program and to be a captain is truly an honor.”
Throughout his time in Durham, Farrell has made quite the impact as a pass rusher while also showing a strong ability to drop back into coverage and excel in Sean McDonnell’s defensive scheme. Through this dynamic skill set, Farrell became arguably the biggest difference-maker for the Wildcat defense throughout the course of the 2016 season.
After redshirting the 2012 season and earning a spot on the CAA’s 2012 Academic All-Conference Team, Farrell made his debut for UNH in 2013 and played in 11 of the Wildcats’ 15 games. During those 11 games, Farrell recorded five tackles, including two in UNH’s two postseason games against Lafayette and Maine.
In 2014 as a red-shirt sophomore, Farrell took a giant step forward and played in all 14 games for the Wildcats. Farrell recorded 18 tackles throughout the season (10 solo) as well as a career-high four tackles in a September game against Lehigh.
Farrell continued to improve in 2015, and earned a starting spot for UNH’s final six games while playing in all 12. Throughout the 2015 season, Farrell recorded 45 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and a touchdown off of a fumble recovery against Central Connecticut. A nine-tackle game against Rhode Island and multiple seven-tackle efforts against Colgate and Albany were also key highlights of Farrell’s red-shirt junior campaign.
In 2016, Farrell not only earned a starting linebacker spot, but he was also named one of the Wildcat captains. Farrell responded by recording his best statistical season yet, accumulating 57 tackles and four sacks.
On October 2, Farrell’s late fourth quarter interception against William & Mary (Virginia) deep in opposing territory set up the game-winning touchdown for UNH in their 21-12 victory. Three weeks later in a 21-7 road victory over Towson (Maryland) on October 22, Farrell’s fourth quarter strip-sack of the quarterback sealed the win for UNH after the ball was picked up and returned to the end zone by teammate Ryan Sosnak.
UNH’s season came to a halt on Saturday as the Wildcats fell on the road to FCS power James Madison in the second round of the playoffs, putting an end to Farrell’s strong collegiate football career. Farrell emphasizes that his time spent at UNH and the close relationship he has developed with head coach Sean McDonnell have helped shape him into a better person, and the Finance major now looks to bring his skills as a leader into the business world upon exiting college this spring.
“Coach Mac always talks about leaving UNH a better person than you came in,” said Farrell. “UNH has taught me so many things, and it that starts with Coach Mac. He really works hard to make us all better men by the time we graduate.”
As Ryan gets set to graduate from UNH in May, his younger sister Shea (currently a senior at Westwood High School) will look to continue the Farrell family’s tradition of excelling in collegiate athletics. The duel-sport captain in both volleyball and lacrosse is preparing to attend Bryant University on a lacrosse scholarship after signing her NLI in late November.
Ryan Farrell is a young man who exemplifies the right way to do things both on and off the field. When you find yourself down in a hole, there is always a way to dig yourself out; Farrell is living proof, having overcome his broken leg to achieve immensely at UNH.
When you get yourself into a good situation - as Farrell did by earning an opportunity to play Division I college football - you don’t just go with the flow. You work harder than anybody else. Whether on the field, in the weight room, or in the classroom, you make the absolute best out of that experience.
Ryan Farrell did just that.
He deserves the highest of recognitions for all that he has been able to overcome and achieve during this last half-decade.