Ryan could have done anything.
Growing up, doctor and lawyer were about the only career options he heard about. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to be a doctor and law seemed more like a fallback plan, although he might have been good at it. (When he was 16, he defeated a county attorney while representing himself in a court case. You should have heard his closing argument.)
His mother suggested he become an orthodontist, (probably because of all the money his parents shelled out on his sister’s braces), but all he wanted to do for much of his early life was play sports.
While he showed promise in sports, he also became interested in acting and music in high school. He enjoyed these art forms and saw them as a way to avoid a more traditional career path.
Ryan signed a modeling and talent contract with Avant Studios, which also signed Elijah Wood, who went on to play Frodo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ryan’s schedule as a four-sport athlete kept him from audition opportunities and soon the company folded. He decided not to continue with the company that was absorbing Avant’s talent.
Music was something he could do from home after practice and games. He wrote and recorded music with a couple friends and sent demos to record labels.
While songs like “Mario” (in reference to Mario Bros.) and “Ode to the Visor” might have gone viral in the YouTube era, they didn’t get the attention of labels, nor did the more serious songs they submitted.
Here’s a lyrical taste from the fan favorites. :)
I gotta play my video games.
Without my Mario Bros. it’s just not the same.
I would go on a date with you, but nothing does it for me like my Mario Bros. do.
“Ode to the Visor” (chorus)
A visor is more than just a hat.
There’s no top, so let your hair flop and all that,
’cause we think visors are extremely phat.
They’re adjustable, they’re unstoppable, and in the top’s a hole.
So if you’re bald don’t be appalled, just get yourself a visor at the nearest mall.
With these avenues not panning out in time, Ryan decided he would go to college.
He graduated as valedictorian from Colfax-Mingo High School but was much more interested in playing sports than any area of study.
He had offers to play basketball, baseball, and soccer and chose basketball.
He was all set to play point guard at Drake University before the dishonesty of the coach recruiting him made him change his mind.
Ryan got a tryout with the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton, CA, the university that produced former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, Michael Olowokandi.
UOP didn’t have any scholarships left but invited him to walk on. Ryan didn’t accept due to high tuition costs, but the coaching staff set him up with a former assistant who was now leading the program at Cabrillo College, a junior college in Aptos, CA, located just blocks from the beach.
Ryan accepted the offer to become a Cabrillo Seahawk and was excited about the adventure ahead. However, not long into his collegiate career, he realized something: sports aren’t enough.
Sports had never been enough; he just thought they were. It was the love and support of his family combined with the thrill of competition he had fallen in love with.
Without his family around, Ryan became homesick and made the difficult decision to pack up his pickup and head home at semester.
He took classes at DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College) the next semester while he tried to figure out what to do next. He also started writing poetry.
He decided to pass on an opportunity to try out for the University of Northern Iowa basketball team and enrolled at the University of Iowa, the school he grew up cheering for.
Just when he was coming to grips with no longer being a student-athlete, he was invited to try out for the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team. As quickly as his hopes were lifted, they were dashed when the tryout was cancelled and the roster was rounded out with a guard from a local junior college.
Realizing he wasn’t ready to end his collegiate sports career, Ryan tried out for and made the University of Iowa Men’s Soccer Club, which competes in the Midwest Alliance Soccer Conference and in tournaments and friendlies against NCAA opponents.
He was with the club from second semester of his sophomore year until graduation.
Ryan was doing well in school while taking a variety of courses but couldn’t have been more undecided about a major. Then, during an advisor meeting, he learned about the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop (he doesn’t even remember how it came up).
His advisor went on to tell him about the Undergraduate Writers’ Workshop for poetry, which required the submission of a collection of poems for acceptance. This was the first time he can ever remember being excited about a class.
Ryan dusted off a dozen old poems and submitted them. He’ll never forget the feeling when he saw his name on the class list on the bulletin board in the Dey House (home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop).
Taught by the brilliant, Christopher Bolin, who currently teaches at College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Ryan learned about the importance of every single word in a poem. So much really does depend upon a red wheelbarrow, as William Carlos Williams so skillfully put it.
Ryan went on to take just about every creative writing course, both fiction and poetry, that the university offered, including several Independent Project in Poetry Writing courses, all of which were taught by extremely gifted writers.
His instructors encouraged him to apply to MFA programs, and he was one of 20 (out of several hundred) applicants accepted into Texas State University’s MFA in Creative Writing program for poetry.
He had thoughts of becoming a well-known poet and professor, but his focus changed New Year’s Eve, 2005. That’s when he met his future wife, Megan.
Ryan decided not to go to graduate school. You see, he had left loved ones once before and realized how lonely it can be chasing dreams on your own. He knew he didn’t want to go down that path again.
Besides, with Megan, he had discovered new dreams, better dreams. This is when he wrote the mantra: Simple is Beautiful.
He had started a successful copywriting business while applying to graduate school but never thought of it as a career. Online sports content publications were his primary clients, and he quickly found out there are few days off in the world of sports.
Working weekends and holidays, Ryan was burnt out after nine years of cranking out content daily. Fortunately, there was an opportunity on the horizon that he didn’t see coming.
Ryan and Dave Poyzer are brother-in-laws (Dave married Ryan’s sister, Mariah). When Dave was thinking about leaving the “B. Organic” PBS TV Show crew to freelance full-time, Ryan remembers telling Dave to “go for it” at a family gathering. Little did he know they would be working together just a couple years later.
At another family gathering in 2014, Mariah expressed that Dave was looking to grow his business, Des Moines Freelancer, through rebranding and marketing. It just so happened Ryan was ready for a new adventure.
Later that year, Canoe There was born and so was the opportunity for Ryan to finally utilize his many talents.
As captain of many sports teams, Ryan learned how to communicate and lead, skills that have benefited him as a producer and director of award-winning projects and films.
His background in creative writing lends itself to video storytelling and filmmaking in many ways, and his poetry background, in particular, complements the photo work he directs.
Ryan’s poetry zooms into small moments, precisely illuminating things that often go unnoticed. He sees so much poetry in photography, which is all about capturing a moment with detail, precision, and illumination.
And Ryan still does all sorts of writing for all sorts of projects.
He finds it funny that his modeling and acting background resurface on occasion. He has more hand modeling credits than he can remember, appeared in print in a December, 2018 issue of Food & Wine magazine and has appeared in several videos, including one for Travel + Leisure magazine, and a couple for Travel Iowa.
Ryan was also one of the subjects of the Bending Branches documentary short: Finding Rhythm, which he also produced, and has even done voice over work.
Outside of work, Ryan appreciates the simple things in life, like sharing a sunset with his wife, but he’s always ready for a little adventure, whether it’s a muddy summit hike in Kauai, a paddling voyage in Germany, fly fishing Michigan’s legendary Au Sable River, or disc golfing a Lake Tahoe mountain course.
With Canoe There, Ryan has been able to work with a wide variety of businesses and organizations in the outdoor industry, tourism, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and more.
Ryan has had the opportunity to do some amazing work, travel to some amazing places, meet some amazing people, and tell some amazing stories.
The kid who could have done anything finally found a career, in which he could do a little bit of everything.