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Where did DeMeco Ryans play football? Revisiting 49ers defensive coordinator’s NFL, college career

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DeMeco Ryans’ stint as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator will likely come to an end after this season.

That’s not an indictment of the second-year coordinator, but a testament to being one of the most sought-after head coaching candidates in the NFL ahead of the 2023 season. 

Ryans hasn’t been shy about sharing his thoughts on the future. Said Ryans of his impending jump to head coach: “For me, with the head-coaching thing it’s like, ‘Are you ready man?'” he told ESPN. “Yeah, I’m ready to go do it. … It’ll be the first time.”

I figured out everything else. I’m pretty sure I’ll figure that out, too.

MORE: Ranking the Super Bowl 57 matchup combinations from best (49ers vs. Chiefs) to worst (Bengals vs. Eagles)

Ryans’ confidence isn’t unfounded. He has excelled at every stage to this point in his career, both as a coach and player. In the latter role, Ryans was a standout in high school, college and the NFL.

With that, The Sporting News looks at Ryan’s playing history, and how it preceded an equally impressive coaching stint with the 49ers:

Where did DeMeco Ryans play football?

Ryans played collegiately at Alabama from 2002-05 under Mike Shula after picking the Crimson Tide over Mississippi State. A three-star recruit by 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Ryans is listed as the No. 42 inside linebacker and No. 18 player in the state of Alabama for the 2002 class.

Following his career with the Crimson Tide, Ryans played six years for the Texans, who selected him 33rd overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. There, he earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors before earning First-Team All-Pro in 2007. He earned another Pro Bowl nod in 2009.

Houston traded Ryans to the Eagles for a fourth-round pick and a swap of third-round selections ahead of the 2012 NFL Draft. Ryans finished his NFL career with four seasons in Philadelphia, before the team released him on Feb. 24, 2016,

Just over a year later, the 49ers hired him as a defensive quality control coach, the start of an impressive coaching career in San Francisco.

MORE: Eagles vs. 49ers odds, prediction, betting tips for NFC championship game

DeMeco Ryans Alabama stats

Year Tackles (TFL) Sacks INTs (PD) FF (FR)
2002 27 (1) 0 0 0 (1)
2003 126 (8.5) 1.5 0 1 (1)
2004 78 (7) 0 0 1 (1)
2005 76 (9.5) 3.5 1 (2) 1 (2)
Career 307 (26) 5 1 (2) 3 (5)

Ryans was one of only two true freshmen to play for Alabama in 2002, an indicator of what he would go on to achieve with the Crimson Tide. The next season saw Ryans record 126 tackles, good for second-most in a season in program history. He also had five games of double-digit tackles, including 25 against Arkansas, an Alabama single-game record.

Ryans experienced a bit of a letdown season as a junior, finishing second on the team with 78 tackles as a junior, including seven for loss.

The following season, Ryans cemented his role as defensive captain, finishing with 76 tackles (9.5 for loss). He also had 3.5 sacks, an interception, one forced fumble and two recoveries. He also had seven tackles and two tackles for loss against Texas Tech in the 2006 Cotton Bowl, earning him defensive MVP honors.

For his efforts that year, Ryans was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-America selection and LOTT Impact Trophy recipient.

MORE: NFL power rankings– 3 reasons Chiefs, 49ers, Eagles and Bengals will (or won’t) win Super Bowl 57

DeMeco Ryans Texans stats

Ryans moved from outside linebacker at Alabama to middle linebacker in Houston, where he made an immediate impact. He led the league with 12 tackles in the 2006 season-opener. He led the team with 156 combined tackles (and the league with 126 solo tackles) as a rookie, earning him Rookie DPOY honors.

Ryans earned his first — and only — All-Pro nod in 2007, a season in which he again led the team with 127 tackles. He had four straight seasons with 100-plus tackles from 2006 through 2009 (his second and final Pro Bowl season).

Ryans tore his Achilles tendon six games into the 2010 season, spelling the end of his career in Houston. Despite playing a full 16-game schedule the following season, Ryans finished with just 64 tackles, 10 more than he had in six games the year prior. The Texans ultimately traded Ryans to the Eagles in March 2012.

Year Tackles (TFL) Sacks INTs (PD) FF (FR)
2006 156 (13) 3.5 1 (7) 1 (1)
2007 127 (3) 2 1 (7) 1 (3)
2008 112 (5) 1 0 (4) 2 (3)
2009 123 (14) 1 0 (2) 1 (1)
2010 54 (2) 1 0 (2) 0 (0)
2011 64 (6) 0 0 (4) 1 (0)
Career 636 (43) 8.5 2 (26) 6 (8)

DeMeco Ryans Eagles stats

Ryans immediately became the team’s starting middle linebacker, finishing with a team-leading 113 tackles, a sack and an interception in 2012. He followed that up with 127 tackles in 2013, which included career-highs in sacks (four) and interceptions (two).

Ryans suffered the second major injury of his career in 2014, tearing his Achilles tendon again in the eighth game of the season. Ryans played four 14 games — starting 13 — in 2015, his final year in the league, finishing with 49 tackles. The Eagles cut him on Feb. 24, 2016, about a month and a half after the team’s season ended with a 7-9 record.

Year Tackles (TFL) Sacks INTs (PD) FF (FR)
2012 113 (15) 1 1 (4) 0 (0)
2013 127 (5) 4 2 (7) 0 (0)
2014 45 (9) 0 1 (4) 0 (1)
2015 49 (0) 0 1 (5) 1 (1)
Career 334 (29) 5 5 (20) 1 (1)


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