RICHMOND, Va. -- One of the best defensive players to ever play in Washington didn't get his first award for football. Ryan Kerrigan was an accomplished swimmer as a kid up until a certain point.
"I just remember, it was when I was in the eight and under age group because when I got to nine and 10, the races started getting a little longer. I wasn't as good at the distance ones so the awards came less," Kerrigan said.
Once he settled on football, the awards and honors came more frequently. Kerrigan was a unanimous All-American at Purdue, the all-rookie team in 2011 and a four-time Pro Bowler in D.C. He was also named as one of the Commanders' 90 greatest players in history.
"You should work hard and put your best foot forward, no matter if there's an award waiting for you or not. But to receive an award or an accolade for work that you've put in and something you've invested your time in and really yourself in, it's gratifying," Kerrigan said.
But after 11 years, physically he couldn't continue. While his heart was in it, the rest of his body wasn't. Kerrigan didn't want to stop playing, but he went into his final season playing for the Eagles knowing that would be it.
"My knee is going to hurt whether I play football or not. I'm not going to play one more year of football and I'll be able to have my last this and my last that. I had some time to be able to process it all and I'm grateful for that," Kerrigan said.
His workout routine is now much different than it had to be as an NFL player, as are his eating habits which have changed drastically, something about his career switch that he doesn't enjoy.
"I always ate healthy food. The volume was just excessive. It was like, I'm going to eat as much as I can. Now it's like, still healthy food but just way less and it's not fun," Kerrigan said.
Kerrigan came back to Washington and joined the Commanders' coaching staff. He just completed his first season as their assistant defensive line coach and already has spent more time in the team's facility than he ever did as a player.
"Monday and Tuesday as a player are your lighter days, typically your days off. As a coach, those are your heaviest days. They're all day, watching film, getting ready for the next opponent," Kerrigan said. "The level of detail that you realize goes into putting a game plan together, planning for one specific play. It's amazing to see all the detail that does in. So I have a lot to learn but I'm looking forward to learning it."
Kerrigan was admittedly worried about coaching players with whom he used to practice and play, but he's not really one of the guys anymore and everyone has been okay with that.
He wants to get the best out of them as much as they do, an attitude that has made him one of the fan favorites in D.C. He's been a constant, steady presence and a good example for more than a decade for a franchise that has had it's share of turnover and turmoil during that time.
"There's a lot of passion, there's a lot of desire for us to get the team back to winning and making noise in the playoffs and I'm hoping we can do that," Kerrigan said.