Missouri Western’s Most Valuable Resource

Two weeks ago, Sam left home for the first time.  He didn’t go far.  His mother and I helped move him into Scanlan Hall on the Missouri Western State University campus.  

One week ago, Sam came home.  He enrolled at Northwest Missouri State University, barely missing a class at either school.  I’m sure many people from Maryville and Northwest Missouri State University think Sam just came to his senses.  

This blog isn’t why Sam came home to attend Northwest Missouri State.  I will tell you it had nothing to do with what Missouri Western did or did not do.  Sure, Sam’s cable television never worked, but that’s hardly a reason for such a dramatic move.

This is a blog about one of the greatest resources that can be found at any school of any level.  It’s about one human being, but his work ethic is hardly human. What he does is set Missouri Western apart from Northwest or any school I know.  This resource is Ryan Menley.

Ryan is from St. Louis.  One of his only faults as far as I can tell is he is a Cardinal fan.  I can’t hardly fault him for that.  He is, after all, a die-hard baseball fan.  Who could dislike such a baseball fan?

I first met Ryan in 2002.  It was my third year at Northwest Missouri State University and his first at KQTV in St. Joseph.  He was the new sports director.  I immediately liked Ryan and his passion for sports.  

He covered my women’s basketball team as intensely as the Northwest football team.  Either Ryan or his assistant were at almost every Northwest women’s basketball game.  My wife asked me to tell Ryan to put the camera at a different angle when he interviewed me.  She said she could count my nose hairs.

Ryan and I became friends.  I would call Ryan if I thought there was anything interesting going on at Northwest and he’d call me if he thought something interesting was going on and I could help him find out.  He just didn’t report the scores and highlights.  Ryan found stories and told the stories.

One year, Ryan asked if he could do a Father’s Day story about Sam and me.  I agreed and, but I couldn’t see how he could make that story interesting.  I was wrong because at the end of the two-minute segment, I had a tear in my eye.

He did funny stories with Sam.  Once he put Sam in his Alex Rodriguez number 13 jersey and had him repeat to the camera, “I was young, I was naïve, and I was stupid.”  That was the line Rodriguez used when he was busted for steroid use.

Another time, when my Northwest women’s team was playing in at Western the night they could clinch the MIAA regular season title.   Ryan got Sam to go on the air by giving him a Griffon t-shirt.  It was a live shot during the game and it appeared Sam was rooting against his dad’s team.  

Ryan had a habit of getting me in trouble while he was digging for a story.  I always had the philosophy that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Not all coaches held that belief.  If Ryan was searching for a story and got stuck, he would call me to see if I could point him in the right direction.  I just couldn’t say no to Ryan.

I was sad to see Ryan leave the television station to go take a new position at Missouri Western.  KQTV have had some good sports directors since Ryan, but no one that dug as hard as Ryan did for the story.  It’s just too easy to report scores and highlights.

Technically, Ryan’s official title at Missouri Western is Executive Producer, Video and Digital Media.  That title really puts a wet blanket on what Ryan Menley does for the Griffon sports program. Ryan has a very simple way of describing himself.  He is a self-proclaimed story teller.  

Last spring, Ryan’s father passed away. He was buried in St. Louis, although Ryan had been helping take care of him in St. Joseph.  The day after his father’s funeral, Sam came to visit Missouri Western.

It was a good visit.  The tour guide was excellent and the facilities about the same as most colleges.  Sam would have probably called it an average visit and moved on, but at the end of the visit, the Admission’s Office informed us Ryan was waiting to talk to us in the press box high above the football field.

Ryan, less than 24 hours from his father’s funeral, made all the difference in the visit.  He showed Sam how he ran the giant scoreboard, all the great pieces of equipment he had gained somehow through a limited budget.  That 25 minutes in Ryan’s press box office made the visit so much greater than anything Sam saw at three other campuses.  

The decision was really a no-brainer. Ryan promised Sam a complete media education.  Sam would produce, film, write and broadcast Western athletics during his four years as an undergraduate.

Ryan told Sam he was hired the minute he walked on campus.  He would find money to pay his salary from somewhere but promised he would put in many more hours that he would be paid.  It sounded like a coach to me and exactly what Sam needed.

Ryan didn’t stop there.  I was looking for an intern for someone who could produce a video history of my hometown of Clatonia, Nebraska on it’s 125th birthday.  When no one took up the challenge, he told Sam to do it.  He would walk Sam through every step.  In truth, Ryan put in more hours that Sam.  The DVD was a big hit and Sam earned a little money for college.  All Ryan got was a thank you and credits at the end of the DVD.

Ryan asked Sam to be part of the production crew for the eight-man all-star game in July.  For one half, Sam ran the camera on the scoreboard and the second half, Sam took orders from Ryan on running the giant scoreboard.

Sam moved to campus on Wednesday two weeks ago.  He was struggling early.  I talked to Ryan about setting up a smart TV for Sam and who he could hire to get it done.  Ryan and a cross country runner went personally to Sam’s dorm room to help.

Ryan recognized the need for Sam to keep busy and get his mind off of going home.  He had Sam run a camera during the final segment of Freshmen Orientation at the football field on the Missouri Western campus.

I couldn’t have asked any more of Ryan.  I couldn’t have asked any more of the Missouri Western Admission staff.  They did everything right.  I tried, too, knowing from years of experience welcoming freshmen to campuses that it gets better every day you stick it out.  

Sam’s at Northwest now and happy.  He’s already in media classes and is working with some of the people at the campus radio station.  Austin Meyer and Addae Houston, the new women’s basketball staff, has allowed Sam to join the program as an unpaid manager.  I’m glad Sam is happy, so why do I have a sick feeling in my stomach?

It is because of Ryan Menley.  I can’t imagine how great of media person Sam would have become after spending four years with him in sports media.  Ryan has so much to offer and now it’s too late for Sam to be a student of Ryan.

Here’s where colleges make a huge mistake.  Ryan can’t teach classes because he doesn’t have enough degrees. I can’t imagine a better teacher than Ryan.  If you doubt what I say, go to Facebook and “like” Missouri Western Athletics.”  You won’t be a traitor.  You’ll see productions that can’t be found at any school with one media specialist. Ryan is truly special.

Don’t take my word for it.  Find a collection of his stories at www.youtube.com/gogriffs2541.  Check out the Rob Edmondson story.  You’ll never look at him the same way as Ryan tells the heart-breaking story when he lost his son.  Check out the story of the new men’s basketball coach, Sundance, when he followed him to New York for the NBA draft.

There’s so much more.  I only have one more thing to say to Ryan.  I will always be grateful for what you did and if you want me to dig for a story, just ask.