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Ironman: Ryan To Miss First ‘Saturday Night Football’ Assignment In 15 Years

Leg injury sidelines ESPN/ABC EVS Operator who sets up SkyCam replays in lockstep with analyst Kirk Herbstreit

EDITOR’S NOTE: The video above provides an example of Nat Ryan’s replay work; this clip is from the Saturday primetime showdown between then-No. 7 Auburn and then-No. 4 Georgia earlier this season.

It took an impromptu game of tennis to take down veteran EVS Operator Nat Ryan, who will miss his first Saturday game in more than 15 years after injuring his leg at Clemson ahead of Saturday Night Football a few weeks ago.

Ryan and the rest of the SNF crew missed a game together last weekend following the postponement of LSU-Florida. Still, this weekend’s Michigan-Minnesota matchup (Saturday | 7:30 p.m. ET | ABC) will be the first game in that time that the show must go on without him.

Ryan runs a machine called “JET,” which is the replay machine for SkyCam and the telecast’s most important look. Ryan has been in lockstep with college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit for more than a decade – he’s been with the ABC SNF franchise since its start in 2006.

He knows exactly how to run those replays for Herbstreit.

“This weekend, we’re losing the familiarity of Nat’s ability to fall back on 15 years of working with us and knowing how Herbie likes his replays cued or where he wants a specific replay to be cued or the speed of the replay in playback – if Herbie is trying to explain a certain play or situation during a game,” said ESPN coordinating producer Bill Bonnell.

Losing Nat is difficult to say the least as his presence and experience is a comfort to us, and Herbie, director Derek Mobley and our entire Saturday Night Football family will miss his expertise the next couple of weeks as he recovers.
ESPN coordinating producer Bill Bonnell regarding Nat Ryan

“Nat has been a part of our Saturday Night Football EVS Team and has been responsible for setting up our EVS room every week for the last 15 years, and it has run smoothly and efficiently under his leadership.”

Sports television has always been a prominent part of Ryan’s life, growing up and learning the business from his father Tom Ryan, who was a tape operator for Bonnell at NBC Sports on several NFL and Notre Dame Football games in the 1990s.

“This area of work is incredibly specialized, and not a lot of people have the ability and knowledge of how to do this to the level of efficiency and precision at which Nat and his father operate,” Bonnell said. “Losing Nat is difficult to say the least as his presence and experience is a comfort to us, and Herbie, director Derek Mobley and our entire Saturday Night Football family will miss his expertise the next couple of weeks as he recovers.”

The thought of missing a game that they are broadcasting feels unimaginable to me. I’m incredibly bummed to not be with them for a couple weeks, but I’m going to be watching and rooting them on. – Nat Ryan

“I’ve been with Dmob (Derek Mobley) and Herbie pretty much my entire post-college adult life,” Ryan said. “I’ve grown up with that crew and they are like family to me. Considering the number of supportive messages I’ve received from everyone, including Herbie, that’s not an exaggeration. The thought of missing a game that they are broadcasting feels unimaginable to me. I’m incredibly bummed to not be with them for a couple weeks, but I’m going to be watching and rooting them on.”

As his SNF family wishes him the best, Ryan will be at home in Portland, resting up for his replay responsibilities to resume when he’s ready.

ESPN/ABC EVS Operator Nat Ryan captures himself at work Sept. 29, 2018, during the Ohio State-Penn State game at Beaver Stadium. (Nat Ryan/ESPN)
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