BOSTON (AP) With Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan back at Boston College on Wednesday, the message was clear: Things weren't always this bad.
After one of the worst seasons in the program's history, Ryan's arrival on campus to discuss his jersey being retired was a reminder that things can get better in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles went winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year, finishing 3-9 for the season, so what better time to bring in the most decorated player in the program's history.
''Last year was tough. There's no doubt about that,'' said Ryan, who led the Eagles as high as No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 and a berth in the ACC title game as a senior in 2008. ''But I feel good about (coach Steve Addazio). He's moving things in the right direction.''
Ryan met with the media and addressed the team a day after the school announced that his jersey will be retired at a ceremony during the Nov. 19 game against Connecticut. Also honored this year will be Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, whose jersey will be retired during the Oct. 22 game against Syracuse.
Ryan said he arrived at BC as a skinny, unheralded triple-option quarterback and converted himself to an NFL player through hard work, good coaching and the talents of teammates on the roster with him. ''I was very fortunate to be here at the time that I was,'' he told the current players, who listened, laughed and applauded in the team's auditorium.
After leading BC to the conference title game in 2007, Ryan was named the ACC player of the year while also picking up the Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was selected third overall in the NFL draft - BC's highest draft pick ever, in any sport.
In eight NFL seasons, he has thrown for 32,757 yards and 202 touchdowns, leading the Falcons to four playoff appearances and earning three Pro Bowl selections.
Kuechly is the most-decorated defensive player in BC history, a two-time consensus All-America selection who led the nation in tackles two seasons in a row and claimed the Dick Butkus Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Award. With Carolina, he has recorded more than 100 tackles in each of his first four NFL seasons, earning honors as AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Boston College has retired the No. 22 of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie and the No. 68 of Outland Trophy winner Mike Ruth. Eight others have their jerseys hanging in Alumni Stadium (though their numbers are still issued): Art Donovan, Bill Flynn, Gene Goodreault, Mike Holovak, Lou Montgomery, Charles O'Rourke, Tony Thurman and Louis Urban.
Also attending the news conference Wednesday to honor Ryan were safety Jamie Silva and offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus, who was the No. 17 overall pick in the draft in 2008, went from the BC team that rose as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25 and played for the ACC title to a Detroit Lions team that went 0-16.
''Didn't win a game,'' he told the players that went 0-8 in the ACC last season. ''You guys probably cost me a couple of TVs, but I'm still a fan.''
But the Lions won two games the next season, six the year after that and, in Cherilus' fourth season, made the playoffs. He encouraged the current players not to give up.
''You didn't lose because you're not good enough,'' he said. ''You lost because you were young.''