OXFORD, Ohio — Miami University linebacker Ryan McWood is grateful for an opportunity to participate in the RedHawks program for a seventh season this fall.
"I don't know how many seventh-year guys are out there," McWood said after spring practice last week. "I for sure didn't think that a seventh year was even possible."
In fact, McWood is believed to be the first Miami University player to participate in a seventh year since the football program started in 1888, according to the school.
The RedHawks open this season at the University of Kentucky Sept. 3.
"What a way to have a leader on your team that started here and just worked, worked and worked," RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. "And it took a while. If Ryan McWood could do it with nothing handed to him as a walk-on, no reps, scout team — and look where he's taken it to through perseverance, hard work and belief in himself."
McWood, who turns 25 in October, was a redshirt his freshman season of 2016. In 2017, he was injured and granted a medical redshirt.
McWood played in 2018 and 2019 before the shortened COVID-19 pandemic season of 2020.
In 2021, he took advantage of another year of NCAA eligibility due to the pandemic but had a core muscle injury that required surgery. He then wondered whether he should return for a seventh year.
"Doubt tries to creep in, but you just got to stay positive through it all," McWood said. "Having the teammates that I have — they've been so supportive. Whether their freshmen, seniors, they've all been so supportive along the way."
Junior quarterback Brett Gabbert said McWood is an inspiration for the offense and defense in practice.
"He's been able to bounce back from a lot of adversity and just proving that he's still out here working each and every day it's something really special," Gabbert said.
McWood's final season at Miami has extra meaning as he gets the chance to play alongside his younger brother, Miami redshirt freshman linebacker Oscar McWood, who turned 18 in March.
"Family means everything," McWood said. "A chance to play with him is awesome."
Martin said he's happy to see the brothers have an opportunity this season and noted McWood is a leader among all of his teammates this spring.
"He's such a great example for your whole program," Martin said. "When you have kids like that as your leaders it makes it a lot easier for us obviously."
That leadership may help McWood in the business world one day. He said he would like to play pro football with an opportunity in real estate after college.
McWood is working on a graduate certificate program in sport management. He graduated in fall 2021, co-majoring in kinesiology and entrepreneurship with a minor in general business.
He's in no rush to graduate from the Miami football program.
"I got buddies back home that are out working," McWood said. "They graduated two, three years ago and they're out in the real world now. And it's like, 'Would I really want to be there yet?' I don't know. So I'm just not taking it for granted trying to do my best to just soak up every moment."