It takes newcomers all of a couple seconds from the moment they walk into Shadle Park in Spokane, Washington, to understand whose the most important in the high school’s history. A No. 11 football jersey in the front hall is the first thing to greet visitors.
Mark Rypien set passing records at the school in the late 1970s and early 1980s before starring for the Washington State Cougars, then later winning the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award with the Washington Redskins in 1992.
One day, another No. 11 jersey will probably sit alongside Rypien’s. Brett Rypien, the quarterback’s nephew, rewrote the Highlanders record books earlier this decade before embarking on a four-year college career with the Boise State Broncos.
“It’s big,” Shadle Park coach Jim Mace said of the Rypien name. “Mark’s jersey is the first thing you see basically when you come into Shadle. Brett’s number will probably be up there, too. The kids kind of know.”
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In all likelihood, Rypien will soon follow in his uncle’s footsteps again in April. The quarterback, who is spending the week in St. Petersburg for the East-West Shrine Game, is one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.
More than a dozen teams, including the Miami Dolphins, have met with Rypien in the Tampa Bay Area this week and Rypien should go somewhere in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft — just like his uncle did when the Redskins took him in the sixth round of the 1986 NFL Draft.
Spokane has known for years Rypien was taking this trajectory. Even though Tim Rypien, the prospect’s father, was a minor league baseball player — the quarterback even showed up to his first youth football practice wearing baseball sliding pants — Rypien distinguished himself quickly on the gridiron.
Mace was a defensive coordinator at Rogers in Spokane when Rypien was a freshman. Four weeks before he prepared to face the Highlanders, Rypien made his debut. Mace knew he had a challenge on his hands.
“The name was there and there was some talk early on about this kid,” Mace said. “Spokane’s a small enough town that you kind of know playing Pop Warner ball like this guy’s going to be good.”
He had those natural athletic genes and grew up with a former Super Bowl MVP helping him break down his playbooks.
Mace actually coached the Pirates to a win aganist Shadle Park when Rypien was a freshman by jamming the Highlander wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and flipping his scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3 to blitz more heavily.
Even as a freshman, Rypien’s most obvious standout trait was how quickly he got rid of the ball — a trait which has only become more important with the proliferation of spread offenses in the NFL
“My Uncle Mark’s always been a big part for me,” Rypien said after Shrine Game practice Thursday at Tropicana Field. “A big supporter and a great mentor, as well. A guy that I can always talk to. He’s obviously been through all this process.”
By the time he graduated from Shadle Park, Rypien was one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, ranked as the nation’s No. 10 pro-style quarterback by the 247Sports.com composite rankings. Despite holding four offers from Pac-12 Conference teams, Rypien picked the Broncos, where he’d succeed Kellen Moore as another four-year starter in Idaho. As a senior in 2018, Rypien ranked in the top 11 nationally with 3,705 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns and 67.3 completion percentage.
In a Draft short on can’t-miss quarterback prospects, Rypien is an intriguing target for teams who’d rather wait and spend a first-round pick on a quarterback in one of the next two drafts — like the Dolphins might opt to do. For the last week, it’s made Rypien a popular interview target for teams who want to find a quarterback. At 3 p.m. on Saturday at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, Rypien will get one more chance to prove why
“I want to show what I can do,” Rypien said, “and show teams what they’re getting when they draft me.”