SportsFource Champion: Steve Ryan’s vision helps build Morningside football from the ground up

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:40 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - When it comes to college football in the GPAC, the Morningside Mustangs are a team that have built up a program known for success.

It all starts with head coach Steve Ryan who is the winningest coach in Morningside football history with over 200 career wins.

It was 2001 when Steve Ryan first set foot on Morningside’s campus. He had just been hired for his first-ever head coaching job which was a dream come true, but he was taking over a program that struggled to find success. But Ryan was up for the challenge.

“Morningside was going from division II to NAIA, and just kind of rebuilding a program and having a chance to really, you know, build it the way I wanted to do it. There was a lot of excitement to it,” said Steve Ryan, Morningside football head coach.

It took long hours and many seasons of ups and downs, originally starting with a roster of just seven players. But he had big plans, eventually getting the Mustangs to the NAIA playoffs with an 8-2 record in 2004. The expectations were always high.

“One of my desires was I wanted Morningside to become one of the top five small college football programs in the nation,” said Ryan.

Steve Ryan had a goal of putting Morningside on the map as one of the top small college football programs in the nation, and it all started with instilling a belief and confidence in his players for them to become their very best.

“I think it’s one of the things I enjoyed most about my time at Morningside. It was getting that thing turned around, and getting young people to believe what they can accomplish and what they can do,” said Ryan.

Ryan continued to build up the program, eventually winning their first NAIA national title in 2018 going undefeated. In the Steve Ryan era, the Mustangs have won three national titles, and 13 GPAC championships.

Even with all he’s accomplished, Ryan is not one to take much time to reflect as his time and effort goes to focusing on how to win that week.

“Building a program to get to the top is a lot of work. Trying to stay on top is a lot of work, it’s just different work. And for the good or the bad of it, one of the things you just do is you just don’t reflect. Don’t take the time to think about where you’re at, or reflecting what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to win this week,” said Ryan.

Following the 2022 season, Ryan was recognized on the big stage by being inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. But it wasn’t about the honor, it was about those he was able to share a very special moment with.

“Going into the Hall of Fame is a nice experience for a person. I think it’s great for your family. So for me, I think the best part was my parents were still alive to see it. And so you get to experience all that with your family. That’s the best part,” said Ryan.

Morningside football head coach Steve Ryan inducted into NAIA Hall of Fame
Morningside football head coach Steve Ryan inducted into NAIA Hall of Fame(Morningside Athletics)

He teaches his players a lot about football, life and playing tough & relentless. But when they leave the field for their final time, he hopes they grew into the best version of themselves.

“You know, I hope when all is said and done, that the guys have played for me can say, ‘Hey, I’m a better man because I played for coach Ryan,’” said Ryan.

Steve Ryan and his players celebrate their first NAIA National Title in 2018.
Steve Ryan and his players celebrate their first NAIA National Title in 2018.(KTIV)