There are a few sides to Ryan Hazard, senior at South Kingstown High School.
On the football field, he is the definition of a load to bring down. Whether it’s offense or defense, good luck trying to tackle someone who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 284 pounds. There’s an element of sheer power – one also on display during indoor and outdoor track season when Hazard steps into the throwing circle – yet you’ll also find an elusive side that helps make Hazard even more lethal when possessing the ball.
“Last year he scored five touchdowns of 50 yards or more,” noted South Kingstown head coach Gerry Zannella. “At 270-plus pounds, it was like he was shot out of a cannon. He’s running away from defensive backs. If you’re in a position to tackle him, you don’t want to. If you think you can take an angle on him, he runs by you and leaves you in the dust.
“He does things on the field where you ask yourself, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
Away from the gridiron, Hazard has evolved into a well-respected young man. He walks the same SK hallways as older brother Rory, mother Kimberly, and several other relatives once did. Rory, who also played football, graduated from SK this past June, and Kimberly had two main callings while there: basketball and softball.
“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by athletes who played here for years and were very good at what they did,” said Hazard on a recent afternoon following the conclusion of football practice. “It’s about living up to a reputation.”
What makes Ryan Hazard a true big man on campus?
Describing himself as an A/B student, Hazard was presented the chance to have a voice as part of a peer group known as the Principals’ Advisory Group. What makes this particular honor extra special stems from the selection process.
— SKHS Athletics (@SKHSRI_Rebels) June 26, 2021
“The principal selects some and some teachers give recommendations. I found out I was nominated by four different teachers. They told me I would be great for the position,” explained Hazard. “A few students from each grade are selected. We give our opinions on how we feel about the school and what things we can change to make it better.”
Hazard smiled upon it being suggested that the mission of instituting possible change through the Principals’ Advisory Group stretches well beyond the menu of food items served in the cafeteria. All kidding aside, it’s a badge of honor that speaks volumes about his leadership qualities.
“Honestly, it was surprising when I found out I had been chosen,” he said. “At first, I was like, ‘They nominated me for something?’ I debated whether or not I should do it, but why not? It would be a great opportunity.”
Another testament to his leadership ability came when Hazard was selected as the Rebels’ captain for the 2021 season.
“He sees himself as one of the guys, but the way he carries himself and his work ethic, it’s a step above,” said Zannella. “He has a great time with his friends. When he smiles, the whole team smiles. When he’s serious, the whole team gets serious. He understands what he needs to do in the classroom and does his best there.”
As a junior, Hazard earned First Team All-Division honors (for D-I) as a running back/defensive lineman. When he was a freshman, there was a groundswell of support from the junior and senior players for the SK coaching staff to insert Hazard as a varsity starter. In the eyes of the veteran players, Hazard was too valuable to keep in reserve.
“They said he needed to play,” said Zannella, an assistant at SK when Hazard was in ninth grade. “He ended up holding his own in Division I football which is almost unheard of.”
Offensively, Hazard entered his final high school football season with his sights set on being in the mix at running back. Alas, those hopes vanished when it became clear that South Kingstown needed help along the offensive line. Zannella went to Hazard and asked if he would be willing to sacrifice carries and touchdowns in the name of clearing space.
— SKHS Athletics (@SKHSRI_Rebels) February 13, 2021
“There was no hesitation,” said Zannella. “He’s a football player who does what he’s told and does what’s best for the team.”
The Rebels hold the option of shifting gears by having Hazard line up in the backfield. Last week against Portsmouth, he finished with 100-plus rushing yards and one touchdown.
“He’s also one of the top defensive linemen in the state, but what jumps off the page to everyone who knows Ryan is his humbleness,” said Zannella. “He also works at it and takes it seriously.”
Beyond this year, Hazard would like to play sports in college – something his mother did. Someday, he wants to run his own business.
“I want to go play at a higher level and also have the chance at an education,” said Hazard. “Each year before school starts, my mom always tells me that sports will get you nowhere unless you have the grades to support it. That’s why I try my hardest, so I can participate in all activities.”
Talk about an exemplary individual who has earned respect no matter the school setting.
“He’s a great guy. He really is,” said Zannella.