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Rex Ryan talks days on the road recruiting with his brother, Rob

The two spent the 1990s criss-crossing the South looking for players, and sleeping in a car.
Rex Ryan

Before he was in charge of the Jets, Rex Ryan was just a college coach scrambling Getty Images

There is no bond closer than a brother, especially with twins. This is certainly the case with Jets head coach Rex Ryan and his brother Rob, who went so far as to share recruiting trips — and even recruits — while they were coaches in college.

In the early 1990s, Rex was a defensive coordinator at Morehead State and Rob held the same position at Tennessee State. They were young and straight out of college and according to former Morehead State head coach Cole Proctor, Rex was “tremendous” on the recruiting trail. To save costs, the brothers would share a ride down to Florida and Georgia to recruit players to two of the better programs in what was then I-AA football.

But sometimes, they would even recruit for each other.

“To cover twice the area, I would take 10 schools in Tampa and he would take another 10 schools and then we'd hit a practice,” Rex told Metro.“If we needed to get a tape we'd get it [for each other]. My brother was at a historically black university, Tennessee State, so if there was a good white player, he'd say, 'Maybe Morehead State is a good place for you,' and things like that.”

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Proctor said he heard Rex and Rob, who is now defensive coordinator for the Saints, would pretend to be each other at times when meeting with coaches and recruits. The story drew a laugh from Rex and a shake of the head, saying the stories of him pretending to be his brother are “overblown a little bit.”

Because the recruiting budget for both programs was small, the shared trips by the twins made sense. Rex would cover the travel budget and Rob would take care of lodging. It worked out well and the two enjoyed their trips.

He wasn't just a recruiter, however. Proctor praised Rex as an offensive coordinator. He said he was innovative, hard working and always full of ideas. Sometimes Proctor had to caution Rex that he was dealing with young men, some still teenagers, and to water down his ideas a bit.

On the recruiting trail, Rex was a bit of a closer. He had the big personality he has now and a tremendous sense of people. He helped land some top talent for Morehead — and perhaps Tennessee State as well.

“You see how he is with people. He really cares and that shows,” Proctor said. “He will look you right in the eye and be interested in you. He's like that — a real, genuine and caring person.”

In those days, coaches collected letters of intent signed by players to signal their college selection to the NCAA, there was no faxing mechanism in place. Often, Rex and Rob would drive around on Signing Day to gather up the signatures, much like they did when they recruited the players. They would go throughout Florida and Georgia together to get their recruits and make it official.

They learned that with an undecided player, if they got to the house first, then they had a good chance to sign the guy. This happened one time for a player Rob was recruiting to Tennessee State.

The two camped out in their pickup truck the night before Signing Day to be the first to sign the recruit. They were going against another school with far deeper resources than either Morehead State or Tennessee State.

But some hustle, ingenuity and a mysterious flat tire helped them land the player.

“There was this one player in particular and this other [school], they had a lot of money ... and they'd stay in the hotels. Rob and I, we would sleep in our car or something to go sign the guy. For some reason, the school never made it over to this guy's place until it was too late,” Rex said. “The mom comes out on the porch and says, 'Well, I guess we're going with you,' and that's what it was.”

Rex laughed during the whole story, a smirk rolling across his face.

“For some reason, that guy's car never made it. I will just leave it at that,” Rex said. “There was a flat tire. I don't know how it happened. We laughed our butts off.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.

 
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