The boy went on to tell Kerrigan how he was hired as the team manager of the Woodbridge High School football team, how he played a blind child in a school play called “The Miracle Worker.”
I love the way you sack and take it all the way. . . . I make people happy and laugh and I have a dream to meet you. . . . Please write back to me.
The big, strong 6-foot-4, 260-pound linebacker, about to embark on his first Pro Bowl season with Washington, held the letter and thought about the difference between the courage shown on an NFL field and the courage shown in life.
“As a player, you’re always getting things sent to you, tons of mail,” Kerrigan said. “I always try to be nice, but I just can’t write everybody back. But I saw his letter. It . . . it did something to me.”
Kerrigan found a pen, a piece of paper and started writing in neat cursive, putting the letter in the mailbox two days before last season’s opener:
Thanks for your kind letter! I am terribly sorry to hear about your car accident + your condition. But I am inspired by your upbeat personality! Keep that attitude and you can do whatever you dream! Thanks for being a Redskins fan + for your support. God Bless!
Ryan Kerrigan #91
This is a story about two people named Ryan who inspired each other, and it would end here except Ryan D’Emidio is more relentless than any locked-in Pro Bowl linebacker at the snap count.
See, Kerrigan’s note gave the kid an opening, a gap to shoot. He wrote Kerrigan back, working it, appealing to his ego, “Sack Tony Romo!” He thanked him for the handwritten letter in another note, soberly adding, “I would hand write but my hands don’t work so well and I was afraid you would not be able to read it!”
When I asked Kerrigan two months ago whether he would be up for meeting his fan Ryan, he didn’t hesitate. “That kid? He’s amazing. Sure. I’d be honored. His story was so uplifting.”
Ten days before Christmas on a cold, rainy night in Woodbridge in 1995, Susan D’Emidio got in her car and headed out for some last-minute holiday shopping. “I was being silly, I know, but with seven kids I just thought I had forgot something,” she said. By the time she turned onto busy Minnieville Road, the rain had turned to black ice. An out-of-control car hurdled the barrier and came into her lane. Hers was the first vehicle involved in a 15-car pileup.
At 28 weeks pregnant with Ryan, she was deemed healthy enough to return home. But within a week, her body went into toxic shock and her baby was suddenly in grave danger.