Buddy Ryan plans to catch son's Jets in AFC title game
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By Jim Baumbach
Buddy Ryan hasn't been to a New York Jets game this season. The former NFL coach is a month shy of 76 years old, so traveling isn't as easy or enjoyable anymore. Watching his son's first year as a head coach on TV suited the famous father just fine.
But now that Rex has the Jets in the AFC Championship Game — in a city that's only about a three-hour drive from his Kentucky home — Buddy Ryan is ready to hit the road.
Weather permitting, he plans on being in Indianapolis on Sunday for the big game, he told Newsday on Monday.
"This is super," he said. "He's pretty close to having everyone in Times Square, right?"
(It's actually the Canyon of Heroes, but he's absolutely right.)
Buddy insisted he wasn't nervous while watching the Jets beat the Chargers on Sunday, saying, "I know Rex is an excellent coach." But the only other person in the room during the game told a different story.
Debbie Ellis, a friend who owns the stable in which Buddy keeps his dozen-plus horses, hosted Buddy for the game. She said Buddy alternated between standing, sitting and pacing the room. In other words, he acted in a way any father could relate to while watching his son in a big moment.
"Buddy may have mellowed and slowed down in the last few years, but he's definitely still into it," she said. "Just like today, he had two newspapers and made sure to read every article about the game. He doesn't want to miss anything in this celebration for his son. He's just so happy for Rex."
Heck, at one point, she said Buddy even said to no one in particular, "I can't believe the clock isn't going faster!" And she said they high-fived after Shonn Greene's 53-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Ever since the Jets hired Rex — an opportunity Buddy said his son deserved — Buddy has become a Jets fan, wearing team hats and shirts. He and Rex even bought a horse together.
"You won't believe it, but the horse was born the night they signed him to the contract," Buddy said. "So we called it Jetty."
When Buddy visited Rex and the Jets during training camp last summer, he did what Ryans do so well: He said something outlandish. Saying that he was impressed with the offensive and defensive lines, Buddy remarked, "I think you can near guarantee yourself a Super Bowl if they stay healthy."
Now the Jets are a win over the Indianapolis Colts away from reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in 41 years. Their last Super Bowl — in which they beat the Baltimore Colts for their only championship — was a game in which Buddy played a role. He broke into the NFL that season with the Jets as Weeb Ewbank's linebackers coach.
"When Weeb hired me, he said, 'We were last in run defense last year. Can you get that straightened out?' I said, 'Oh, yeah,' " Buddy said. "And it worked out great."
Now you can say the same thing about Rex's first season with the Jets.
Remember when Rex said at his introductory news conference that in the next couple of years, he expected the Jets to have an opportunity to meet Barack Obama after winning the Super Bowl?
A few months later, that doesn't sound so crazy anymore.
"He does a great deal with the fans, the people, the whole bit," Buddy said. "I'm sure they love him even more now."
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