Ryan Beliel stood on the turf poised to fire a pass in front of a packed crowd at the Kingdome during the Seattle Seahawks inaugural season in 1976. No, the 13-year-old didn't have a grimacing linebacker chasing him around the field or an irate coach waiting for him on the sideline. Still, there he was on the big stage, competing in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
"Flying to Seattle, putting on a Seahawks uniform, it was just an awesome experience — they really made you feel like you were somebody," Beliel said.
He came up about 20 feet short of Eric Brown from Eugene, who advanced to the next level of the competition in New Orleans.
"I remember I stubbed my toe during my punt and that cost me some distance," Beliel said. "That was also the day of toe kickers off the tee, so I was different with my soccer-style approach."
Beliel still has the full uniform and the football he used on that memorable day more than 40 years ago. His mother Carol kept a scrap book that includes invitations from the NFL, press clippings and photos from the trip.
"The numbers are all cracked and everything, but I've worn that jersey to Super Bowl parties a few times," Beliel laughs.
A soccer player growing up, he practiced for the competition on the pavement outside his Rockwood home.
"We lived on a dead-end street, and I would spray paint lines at 100 feet and every 10 feet after that," Beliel said. "My friends would come out and shag balls for me."
He could boom the ball, winning a series of local competitions to earn a trip to Seattle with his family.
Beliel went on to compete in soccer, baseball and track before graduating Reynolds High in 1981.
He took on bicycle riding as his favorite form of fitness and joined his father Doug to complete a Seattle-to-Portland ride along side roads just west of Interstate-5.
"I remember it being a pretty steady ride," Beliel said. "My dad kept telling me not to get caught up in the guys zipping past, and sure enough we'd see a lot of those guys again on the side of the road. They looked done, and we just kept going."
Beliel worked at Elmer's Pancake House for 10 years, then with Boeing on the late shift for 12. As his daughters Jessica and Marissa, both George Fox graduates, approached middle school, he made a change that allowed him more family time.
"Working the night shift, I realized I wouldn't be able to be there for their games as they grew up," Beliel said. "I wanted to help them explore their gifts and talents."
Beliel had already been volunteering at Portland Christian School in Northeast Portland for several years, and he was able to turn that into a full-time job as groundskeeper on campus. He coached his daughters' basketball teams through the youth levels and cheered them on through some stellar seasons with the Royals.
Portland Christian went 29-0 on its way to the 2A state title in 2010 — Jessica was a senior and Marissa a sophomore.
Ryan and his wife Cynthia are celebrating 28 years of marriage.
This story appears in our Friday, June 23, print edition.