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September 10, 2015

Matt Ryan's family still roots for the Eagles — just not on Monday night

These occurrences always tend to get a little murky for Matt Ryan's parents, Mike and Bernie, and their extended family. Every once in a while, when “their” Atlanta Falcons play the Eagles, the Ryans, McGlincheys, Hartmans, Tarpeys, McCains and Lougherys — salt-of-the-earth people born and bred lifelong Eagles’ fans from the area — are yanked aside by blood ties.

The sway happens when the hometown boy goes up against his hometown team, in this case Falcons’ starting quarterback Matt Ryan, the former Penn Charter and Boston College star who still vacations in Wildwood during the summer and carries his own bags through airports.

The Eagles host the Falcons Monday night in their season opener.

Matt and his wife, Sarah, live in Atlanta year round, but they always come back to Exton, Chester County, where Matt’s family lives, during the off-season. Matt has picked up a bit of a Southern accent at times, but he knows where his home and roots are.

“I was raised in a huge family where family means everything,” said Matt, who was the third-overall pick in the 2008 draft and has become the face of the Falcons, entering his eighth season as Atlanta’s all-time passing leader. “We (family and friends) have a lot of fun with the Eagles-Falcons thing, but I know where my family and friend’s loyalties lie when we play the Eagles.”

Everything revolves around Matt’s maternal patriarch, Sam Loughery, who went to Frankford High and left school early on the brink of World War II to enlist in the Navy.

That’s the kind of family Matt Ryan comes from.

It may explain where Matt derives his selflessness, where his stable base originates, and why he doesn’t get caught up in the hyperbole of being an NFL quarterback. To his family and friends back home, he’s still Matt from the neighborhood, the same guy they knew before the world was introduced to “Matty Ice.”

“He’s my grandson and that comes above everything,” said Loughery, a vibrant, feisty 88-year-old whose crew was bombed at Pearl Harbor.

“I saw the Eagles win three championships in my lifetime and I would one day like to live long enough to see them win the Super Bowl, if the Falcons don’t," Loughery said.

Loughery is the father of six, five girls and a boy, and grandfather of 23 (18 are boys).

“I’ve always taught my grandchildren that it’s fundamentals that win games,” he says. “You play with a bat, ball and glove, never your mouth. It’s what I preached to all of my children and grandchildren. You win through skills, not attitude. It’s why you’ll never see Matt talk (trash). It’s not the way he was raised by his parents, because I didn’t raise my kids that way.

“Each time the Eagles play the Falcons I always get asked how I feel about it. I saw the Eagles win three championships in my lifetime and I would one day like to live long enough to see them win the Super Bowl, if the Falcons don’t.

“I’ve been an Eagles’ fan and Philadelphia sports fan my whole life, but when Matt was drafted by the Falcons, they say blood is thicker than water, and that’s who my whole family roots for today. I’m still an Eagles’ fan and will always be an Eagles’ fan. I like to say I have two favorite teams, the Eagles and Falcons — except when the Eagles play my grandson and the Falcons.”

Mike McGlinchey, Matt’s 6-foot-9, 310-pound cousin, the son of Mike and Janet McGlinchey, became a Boston College fan when Matt played there. Now Matt has been turned to the dark side, as an avid fan of Notre Dame, where Mike starts at right tackle for the Irish (protecting left-handed Irish quarterback Malik Zaire’s blindside) and could possibly be a first-round draft pick like his cousin.

Mike’s mother, Janet, is the youngest of the six Loughery’s and the younger sister of Matt’s mother Bernie.

“We became Boston College fans when Matt was there, and we all became Falcons’ fans as soon as they drafted him,” Mike said. “What’s always been stressed to me growing up has been family. I’m the oldest of six. My mother is the youngest of six. We’re a huge family that believes in family first. I always say how fortunate I am being part of such a big family. You can always count on big support.

“But we are smart enough, regardless of how large our family is, and how large some of us are physically, to wear our Falcons stuff under coats when they come to the Linc. We’re Eagles’ fans except when they play the Falcons. When you’re raised in and around the Philadelphia area you’re naturally going to be an Eagles’ fan.”

On Monday afternoon, Janet McGlinchey will don her No. 2 Atlanta Falcons’ jersey with her nephew’s name during lunch at St. Joseph-St. Robert School in Warrington, where she works. The kids there will no doubt tease her about the Eagles beating the Falcons.

"If he wasn’t in the NFL playing for the Falcons," Mike Ryan said, "Matt grew up loving the Eagles and would probably still be an Eagles’ fan.”

“My parents taught us family comes first, no matter what,” Janet says. “If Matt played for the Giants or even Dallas, we would have to root for them. My kids even like Dallas, because of Zach Martin, who they met through Michael at Notre Dame. Zach is a normal guy like everybody else. Now they like the Cowboys because they like Zach. They see the people outside the uniforms.”

On Monday night, the Ryans will be surrounded by their extended Falcon family. Bernie will get nervous, as she usually does each time she sees Matt play, and Mike Ryan, Matt’s father, will grit his teeth and his body language will twist and turn with each pass Matt throws.

“The beauty of all of Matt’s success is that he hasn’t changed at all,” Mike Ryan said. “He still loves spending a few weeks in Wildwood each summer, playing wiffle ball with his cousins. He still comes back home and supports the Little Quakers (who Ryan played for). If he wasn’t in the NFL playing for the Falcons, Matt grew up loving the Eagles and would probably still be an Eagles’ fan.”

Follow Joe on Twitter @JSantoliquito