Paul Ryan: Wisconsin Childhood Shaped VP Candidate's Views

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Long before he was Mitt Romney's choice to join the GOP ticket, and even before his election to the House of Representatives in 1998, teachers say Paul Ryan was a popular and intelligent student in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.

A visit to the Hedbeg Public Library in downtown Janesville offers a glimpse into Ryan's life as a student before he went off to Miami University in Ohio, and long before he gained prominence as a 28-year-old freshman representative.

As a student at Craig High School in Janesville, Ryan was elected prom king and played soccer. He appeared on the cover of the high school yearbook, where he and his classmates celebrated their seniority in a group photo.

Ryan is a fifth-generation native of Janesville, and his elevation to the national spotlight makes those who have known him proud.

When he was in the sixth grade, he met Andy Speth, who would become his close friend and his chief of staff in Washington. It was Speth in whom Ryan confided as Romney prepared to announce his running mate.

"A lot of people know Paul in Janesville because he's very personal," Bill Westphal, Ryan's neighbor, told ABC News. "He's been reelected as a result of good stewardship and intelligent congressional work."

Ryan and his family are also members of the St. John Vianney Roman Catholic church in Janesville.

"This guy is a busy congressman but he has time for his church and his family, and I think that says a lot about his values system, and that I respect very much," said Westphal's wife Sandy.

Ryan is known as an avid sportsman. As a ninth grader at Marshall Middle School, he played a little football.

Even before that, he had a love for the outdoors, exploring the ravine behind his boyhood home that would become his escape route Friday afternoon, when he snuck away from reporters to meet Romney for the VP announcement in Virginia.

"When Paul was a young child, he'd go to an area near his home, referred to as Cullen's Woods, and he's shoot maybe a squirrel occasionally," Bill Westphal recalled. "He loves to hunt -- he's bow hunter -- and he was no danger to anyone with a pellet gun but he would sometimes decimate a squirrel. And he kinda liked that. He's just a regular guy."