By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer
Bunker Hill —
Twelve-year-old Ryan Daine was walking down a hallway at the IU Medical Center in Carmel wearing his favorite bright-green Nike tennis shoes when he heard a voice from behind.
“Hey, I like your shoes,” the voice said.
Ryan turned around to see who had given him the compliment, and saw Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck halfway down the stairs.
Luck turned around and gave him a smile.
“Stunned. Surprised. Impressed,” he said. “Just a total mixture of feelings.”
The surprise run-in with Luck was just the first encounter Ryan had that day with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Maconaquah Middle School sixth-grader spent a Friday in February filming a series of workout videos with Luck for a new online health initiative sponsored by Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
The initiative, called ‘Change the Play,’ launched April 15, and consists of eight weekly video challenges that give kids the know-how they need to make positive fitness, nutrition and health choices.
Ryan, who was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, was one of just 12 kids chosen out of the thousands of young patients at Riley Hospital to participate in the videos with the all-star quarterback.
The 12 kids spit up into three groups. Each group demonstrated different stretches and lifts, with Luck leading the workouts.
Ryan’s mom, Suzette, said his doctor at Riley was the person who nominated him to be in the videos. When they found out he’d been chosen, she said Ryan was floored.
“Of course, he was totally gung-ho,” she said, noting everyone in the family is die-hard Colts fans. “He was ready to do it. I think he thought we were joking at first, but when he realized we were serious, he started jumping around.”
Ryan said he was a little nervous to meet one of his sports heroes as he and his dad drove to the IU Medical Center for the video production day.
But after hanging out with Luck for just a few minutes, he said his nervousness wore off.
“I pretty much eased right into it,” he said. “I thought I’d be star-struck or something, but he was so easy to talk to and nice that I just eased into it. He had a great personality.”
When Ryan returned home to Bunker Hill after filming, Suzette said it seemed like he was living in a daydream.
“He had a big grin on his face for a long time after that day,” she said. “He was on cloud nine.”
But then the real challenge began.
Officials at Riley told all the kids they couldn’t say anything about the videos until the release date in April. That meant three months of sitting on secret that Ryan said he wanted so badly to tell his friends about.
“I just had to keep my mouth shut, but that was hard to do,” he said.
And he nearly gave in, too.
Suzette said one day in class, the teacher asked the kids if any of them had met someone famous. Ryan’s hand went up instinctively, along with a few of his classmates.
When the teacher asked Ryan who he’d met, he told her he couldn’t say — but it was definitely somebody famous.
“I think he felt a little silly that he’d raised his hand,” Suzette said. “But he took it very seriously. He wasn’t going to spill the beans.”
When the day came that Ryan could talk about his experience with Luck, he said it felt awesome to tell his friends.
“They thought it was really cool,” he said. “Some of my friends were pretty jealous.”
But it wasn’t just hanging out with a famous pro athlete that made the day so great for Ryan. He said it felt good, too, to be part of something that would help his peers stay healthy.
That’s something Ryan said he’s really payed attention to ever since finding out he has diabetes. Now, he gives himself a shot four times a day, and has to closely monitor what he eats.
“The videos will help other kids to strive to be healthy, and that’s important,” he said.
Suzette, who works as the school nurse at the middle school, agreed.
“He felt he could represent kids out there who have diabetes, cancer or another disease,” she said. “He felt like he could empower them and let kids know the disease doesn’t define who they are.”
Ryan wasn’t just inspired to stay healthy from his day hanging out with Luck. He said the quarterback, who was co-valedictorian in high school and attended Standford University, also showed him you could love sports and school at the same time.
Ryan said he takes his grades seriously because he wants to be a nuclear physicist when he grows up. But he also likes playing football and baseball, and he wants to keep doing that, too.
“He showed me you can have academic excellence at the same time you have athletic excellence,” Ryan said. “That really made an impression on me.”
Ryan said he’s currently participating every week in each workout video. Just because he helped make them doesn’t mean he still can’t learn from them, he said.
“To sum it up, it was an amazing experience that most kids will never get to do,” Ryan said. “I feel pretty lucky.”
Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He can be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at email@example.com.
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