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NFL coaches Rob Ryan, Rex Ryan learned family business while at Southwestern Oklahoma State

Rob and Rex Ryan came to SWOSU out of necessity, and because their father, Buddy Ryan, wanted them to learn from Southwestern's coaches.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 18, 2012
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WEATHERFORD — Rex and Rob Ryan learned the family business on the plains of Western Oklahoma.

They learned it at Southwestern Oklahoma State, where they played as undersized defensive ends. They learned it from Bob Mazie and Cecil Perkins and many other coaches who crossed their paths.

But they also learned it from their father in a hotel room a few blocks from campus.

“This was the place we got all our knowledge,” Rob said.

The Ryan brothers are well known for their candor, their bluntness and occasionally their hyperbole. But on the night they were inducted into their alma mater's Athletics Hall of Fame, there was no way they could've overstated the importance of their years in Weatherford.

No way Rex would've become the head coach of the New York Jets.

No way Rob would've become the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.

To think, the brothers came to Southwestern out of necessity. Rex was 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Rob was 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, and neither was recruited.

“It was Southwestern or nowhere,” Rob said.

They came to Weatherford because their father wanted them to be there. Buddy Ryan, the legendary coach, knew Southwestern's coaches through some of his buddies in the business, and he knew Mazie and his assistants could teach the game to his boys.

Rex and Rob learned about football.

And so much more.

Perkins, the former longtime athletic director, became a mentor to both. He taught them lessons that went beyond Xs and Os.

“You know what? It's OK to be yourself,” he told them. “There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, you have to be yourself.”

Needless to say, that lesson stuck.

Rex has been known to wear wigs to press conferences, to say outlandish things to take the pressure off his players, to make proclamations about how good his team was because he truly believed that they were just that good.

Rob is every bit as outspoken but doesn't have as big a microphone as his brother. Put him in New York or make him a head coach, and here's guessing Rob would make the highlights just as much as Rex.

But really, they're just being themselves, just being honest about who they are and what they believe.

And while the folks at the NFL offices prepare to hand out a fine any time they start talking, there's something refreshing about a couple of guys who take their jobs very seriously but don't take themselves seriously at all.

Handed a copy of the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition to sign before the induction ceremony Saturday night, Rex chuckled.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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