Conventional wisdom says to never meet your heroes. But don’t tell Ryan Glover.
Glancing down at his familiar VIP badge and up at the secret service guard patting him down, the then nine-year-old Penn quarterback and his little brother made their way up to the top of the stage, briefly peeking at the monstrous crowd behind them.
Just 10 feet away from the man of the hour, Glover struggled to take it all in. He took a deep breath and saw his breath in the cold, Washington air. His mind was racing with thoughts of what to say and of how important the moment was, but also of how he could get some gloves to prevent his numbing fingers from completely freezing.
The next thing he knew, Ryan Glover was grinning from ear to ear for a photographer immortalizing the moment. Minutes after being sworn in for the first time, President Barack Obama placed his hand on Glover’s shoulder and cracked a joke as the flash went off.
Glover, mesmerized but unable to hear the Commander-in-chief’s jest on account of the raucous crowd of 1.1 million, laughed anyways. Fifteen seconds later, Glover and his brother were ushered to move on, but not before Obama did what likely no other president had ever done to someone before: dapped them up.
Obama wouldn’t be the last celebrity Glover would meet, but he was by Glover’s account, the coolest. The signal caller was born into a world of bright lights and big names. His mother is Tameka Foster, a celebrity fashion stylist for the likes of Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and Aretha Franklin, just to name a few.
As a result of his mother’s connections, Glover has bumped fists with Beyoncé, partied with Rihanna, and dapped up Drake. He has talked quarterbacking with his idols at the position, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. When he was in high school at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, his mom, a vocal presence at all games, brought celebrity guests such as Mayor Kasim Reed to help cheer him on.
“His mom was always supportive, especially at the games, and she was pretty flashy, but always very nice and willing to support,” said John Hunt, Glover’s high school coach.
Foster married R&B superstar Usher in 2007 after they met when she was his personal stylist. It was because of Usher’s performance at the We Are One concert before Obama’s inauguration that Glover was able to meet the president.
Although Foster and Usher are now divorced, Glover and his family keep in contact with him, as he fathered two children with Foster, Ryan’s half-siblings. Despite a busy touring and recording schedule, the mononymous singer found the time to attend several of Glover’s high school games.
Even though his mother and stepfather were stars of the entertainment industry, Glover wanted to follow in the professional footsteps of his businessman father, after whom he is named, which led him to choose to play at Penn even after receiving Power 5 offers.
But that wasn’t the only reason.
Although Penn having the nation’s best business school certainly played a role in his choice, he had other motivations. He wanted to forge his own path as one of the only Black quarterbacks in the Ivy League.
Surrounded by high-profile Black role models through his mother throughout his whole life, he wanted to become one himself. This helped fuel his desire to succeed as a quarterback.
The Ivy League was once a mecca for Black quarterbacks, with six teams having one start games between 1969 and 1974, including Rob Foster of Harvard and Rod Plummer of Princeton. The first Black Penn quarterback, and arguably the most successful of the bunch, was Marty Vaughn, who Glover was able to meet after Penn’s win over Brown last year.
However, in recent years, things look very different in the Ancient Eight.
In 2018, Glover was the only Black Ivy League quarterback to start every game under center. That year, he led the Quakers to a 6-4 record while throwing for 1482 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 300 yards on the ground.
The following season, Glover lost a quarterback competition to Nick Robinson and ended up spending most of his time on the sideline, occasionally being deployed as a gadget player. He did, however, spark a Homecoming victory over Cornell when he entered in relief of Robinson and immediately threw a 40-yard touchdown. The team’s decision to not start him after that was slightly controversial.
This year, he is poised to take back his spot atop the depth chart. In the fall, he will look to use his fast release, superior field vision, and trademark scrambling to lead the Red and Blue back to Ivy League glory.
Off the field, he has made strides in his business aspirations. Although he likely could have interned with a number of big names in hip hop, Glover secured a coveted summer position as an analyst at an investment bank.
And while he’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to go into entertainment, it doesn’t stop his friends from trying to get a leg up from his mom’s high status.
“Penn is very pre-professional. People are always looking for connections, so they reach out to me, if they’re trying to go into the entertainment world,” Glover said.
Although Glover has accomplished a lot during his time at Penn, he always remembers a phrase that his mother taught him at a young age, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Foster has founded three charities, all of which Glover has been involved with.
“Having a blessed life, and having access to all the things I’ve had, it’s only right to pay it back,” Foster said.
While Glover and his mom have handed out shoes and backpacks to underserved communities to help reduce truancy for economic reasons as part of Oakland Natives Give Back, the cause most near and dear to their hearts may be Kile’s World Foundation.
Created in honor of Glover’s younger brother Kile who passed away after a tragic boating accident in 2012, the charity originally provided performing arts opportunities for underserved children. Glover created some of his favorite summer memories from the program, as he mentored local youth for three weeks at a summer camp and helped them organize a performance.
More recently, in light of the current climate, the foundation’s mission has shifted gears. It now focuses on promoting acts of kindness among underprivileged youth, recognizing acts of kindness with rewards.
Glover has also helped his mom with the creation of a 3-D animation series in honor of his brother called The Odd Life of Kile Liles, where one character is based off of his personality.
While the fate of Penn’s fall football season is up in the air, it’s a near certainty that if there is one, Tameka Foster will be there cheering from the stands. And even though her fashion friends know she won’t be available on Saturdays in the fall, she keeps a busy schedule and has a wide range of sartorial talents. Just don’t ask her to redesign Penn’s uniforms, which she says are “aesthetically perfect”.