Ravens defensive coordinator / assistant head coach Rex Ryan caught up with BR.com and shared some memories of what it was like to grow up with his twin brother, Rob Ryan, Raiders defensive coordinator, as well as his involvement with the Special Olympics of Maryland as he prepares to face his brother this Sunday.
BR.com: What are some interesting stories from when you and your twin brother [Rob Ryan, Raiders defensive coordinator] were growing up?
Rex Ryan: "Oh, we've got a bunch of them. There's a rumor he took my ACT test, but that's only a rumor. But we did switch classes occasionally. I'm just kidding. He was better at math than I was. I'm sure I was better in every other subject than he was. We used to really look alike, and we sound exactly the same, so we could fool people quite a bit."
Did you ever switch dates or anything?
"No. Now I will say this: I'll call his wife and get her on the phone, and I'll pretend that I'm Rob, so that's always pretty funny. And he does the same to mine occasionally. We do sound exactly alike, and if you don't have the caller ID, there's no way they can tell the difference."
Did you two ever have any "twin" moments?
"Yeah, we've had a couple of those. Generally involved, 'You know, I feel like my brother's in a fight or something,' and he was. Growing up in a football family you move a lot, but with us it was good because you always had your best friend with you. I always tell our players, 'I've never lost a fight in my life.' But, I had my twin brother with me all the time, so it was never a fair fight. It was always a two-on-one, so you had to be pretty tough to whip us. We're still close, maybe not as close as we used to be because he's so far on the other coast. But it's neat, and I'm proud of him."
Do you get much coaching advice from your dad [Buddy Ryan] or do you mostly go by your own plan now?
"I pretty much do my own plan, but if I need to, I'll call my brother or I'll call my dad, run things by them, and really, your buddies that you respect through the league that you've worked with. Whether it's a Jack Del Rio or a Mike Nolan, whoever it is, I'll run things by them. But my dad's still definitely a mentor to me. He's a guy who I'll go to with questions. He watches every game. He's got the pulse of your team. He can sense what you're trying to do, so it's always good to talk to him about it."
What did Thanksgiving Day football games look like at your house?
"Oh, we had some legendary ones."
I bet there wasn't a lot of scoring.
"No, a lot of defense in those games. My twin brother and my older brother, every year we would play a game. The only rule that we had was that there had to be cheap shots. If you never hit anybody and you had the opportunity, then you were done. I think I got knocked into a moving car one time. You were always sore. You felt like you'd played a real football game after that day. It was great."
Tell us about your jersey collection. What sparked that interest?
"It's what big, fat guys wear. It's always easy to slap a jersey on, very comfortable. Usually I'm heading to a ballpark, my kid's playing a sport or something like that. It's just comfortable. I think I was into that way before the trend was."
Are they just football jerseys?
"No, I've got all kinds of them. I have the hockey ones – I have the Hanson brothers, I got the Ogie Ogilthorpe, from Slap Shot. I have The Natural, Robert Redford with the 'Wonderboy' thing. I've got all kinds – football, baseball, even basketball."
What interested you about Special Olympics Maryland?
"I've been involved for a long time with them. It's just a great feeling that you get. I get more out of it by being there than the kids do by having me there. It's fun to just get out there and watch the guys compete and see the smiles on their faces. With the Special Olympics of Maryland, it provides every kid in Maryland that kind of opportunity to compete, so that's a great thing."
What is the Maryland State Police's Polar Bear Plunge [fundraiser for SOMD] like?
"The Polar Bear Plunge is very cold. Last year was brutal because on the day of the Polar Bear Plunge I was actually interviewing for a job, so I missed it. I came back and thought I was able to get out of it, and then they were like, 'No, no, no, you're going.' So I went out there with a few guys and did it. But it's a great thing to do. It brings awareness to Special Olympics, so it's a good deal. I don't mind doing it at all."
What is your favorite dinosaur?
"A T-Rex! No question. It's a stud. There's no doubt about that."
Which exercise class is your favorite?
"None of them. I don't like any of them. I'd have to say 'None of the above.' But I'm doing it. The yoga thing's pretty fun, and the other ones – that spinning class that I'm getting into – me trying to do that is a joke. But, I'm there."