Downtown Spokane: a coffee shop, a couch, a newspaper and another episode of “He Said, She Said,” high school football edition.
She: “Have you read about Brett Rypien?”
He: “I don’t need to read about him.”
She: “He passed for like 570 yards against CV.”
He: “It’s a bunch of hype. They see the name ‘Rypien,’ and he gets all the headlines.”
She: “No, he didn’t start getting any publicity until he started breaking those records.”
He: “If his name wasn’t Rypien, they wouldn’t write a thing about him.”
She: “But what about the records he’s been setting?”
He: “I know football. It’s the name. It’s just like with Eli.”
Eli? As in Manning? This is Mr. I-Know-Football’s damning evidence against football nepotism?
Brett Rypien doesn’t have to be told about this actual-if-not-verbatim exchange, because he knows it goes on, in one form or another, in pockets all over Spokane whenever the game he plays and the name he bears dovetail in conversation.
For every person who derives a little pleasure from having someone from the neighborhood carve out a measure of national fame, another can’t shake the resentment virus. It’s not exclusive to Spokane or even cities this size, but it is very much a thing.
“There are always going to be people saying you’re playing because of your name,” Rypien said. “You just have to prove them wrong every week. If you’re not prepared for that, maybe you shouldn’t be playing.”
The proving goes on for Rypien and the Shadle Park Highlanders tonight. Having gone from zero victories in 2011 to four this fall, been a part of the most talked-about high school game in the country a few weeks ago and made the 3A playoffs for the first time in seven years, Shadle finds itself matched against top-seeded Kennewick as a reward.
The daunting aspect hardly even registers amid the buzz.
“The last few years, I don’t think anybody would have been excited about watching a Shadle game,” Rypien said. “Even if you were on the team, you weren’t going to go out and brag about it. Now you can feel the change in attitude in the whole community here. It’s been fun to win a few games and make the playoffs, and we have a lot of potential moving forward as well.”
Anticipation is where this stops being just a Shadle story. When records start falling so early in a career, it’s something everyone can latch onto.
It started about 13 months ago, when Shadle coach Alan Stanfield tossed the keys to his offense to a slender freshman quarterback. In his first start, Rypien passed for 190 yards, and everybody unholstered their calculators.
Three games into his sophomore season, he threw for a Greater Spokane League record 483 yards against University. The state record fell with that 577-yard game in the wild shootout with Central Valley. Last week, he became the first GSL quarterback to top 3,000 yards in a season – his 3,179 is nearly a thousand more than Connor Halliday’s old record.
Back at No. 5 is yesterday’s news: Mark Rypien, who got his numbers retired at Shadle not long after winning a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins.
“That’s what my brother calls me now – ‘Hey, Five,’” Mark complained a couple of weeks ago.
Yes, the gene pool is pretty deep. After Mark tore it up at Shadle, Brett’s father, Tim, and uncle Dave were more than just OK athletes. And surely it doesn’t hurt the learning curve when Uncle Mark drops by for a couple of hours to watch video, as he did earlier this week.
But Brett Rypien isn’t just playing on hand-me-downs.
“He has a lot of things going for him,” Stanfield said, ticking off things like intelligence, humility and simple likeability, “but what stands out as a quarterback is his willingness to throw the ball in places most kids won’t.
“High school quarterbacks want to throw the ball to a receiver when he’s open. Against a good defense, if you wait that long, it’s too late. Sometimes you have to throw it to a spot knowing he’ll be open when it gets there, and Brett has come a long way in understanding when that has to happen.”
The other understanding is, well, not so technical.
It’s about what’s expected of a quarterback, something Brett Rypien has loved since he started taking snaps in the fourth grade.
“I like the key moments,” he said. “When there’s two minutes left and you have to put together a drive to win a game – that’s what it’s all about. In those moments, some guys will do better than others and that’s what I love about the game: having to make a key throw when you need to.
“That’s where you make a name for yourself.”
Even if it’s a name we already know.