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NFL Playoffs: From Oklahoma State to the New Orleans Saints, Rob Ryan continues to overhaul defenses

by Jenni Carlson Published: January 10, 2014
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/articleid/3922754/1/pictures/2315495">Photo - FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2013 file photo, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan walks on the field before an NFL football game against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J.  Dallas Cowboys' Jason Hatcher gives Ryan most of the credit for a transformation that has him second among NFC sack leaders in 2013. Now the Cowboys get to face their old defensive coordinator less than a year after he was fired and ended up in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2013 file photo, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan walks on the field before an NFL football game against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J. Dallas Cowboys' Jason Hatcher gives Ryan most of the credit for a transformation that has him second among NFC sack leaders in 2013. Now the Cowboys get to face their old defensive coordinator less than a year after he was fired and ended up in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

“He really instilled confidence in you, made you feel like you could run through a brick wall,” former Cowboy defender Greg Richmond said.

Richmond was at standout at Douglass High School when Ryan arrived at OSU, and as soon as he met the coach, Richmond knew where he wanted to go.

“It was an easy decision after that,” he said. “I wanted to play for him.”

Richmond never did, though. He redshirted his first year at OSU, and after that season, Ryan left to be the linebackers coach for the Patriots.

“It really hurt me,” Richmond said of Ryan's departure. “I don't think I ever told him that.”

He chuckled.

“It really hurt me when he left.”

But Richmond believes that the defense of his generation built on the toughness, aggression and accountability that Ryan instilled. And he suspects the generations after him did the same.

That's why Richmond and Wright still see shades of Ryan in the Cowboys today.

“It just passes on,” Richmond said.

Wright said of today's Cowboys, “They have that fight again, and that's what I'm proud about.”

For as much as the Cowboy faithful credit Boone Pickens, Mike Holder and Mike Gundy for the rise of OSU football, you can't forget the likes of Rob Ryan. He helped to change the attitude and upgrade the talent.

“We had played decent defense before then,” Simmons said, referring to his first two seasons at OSU, “but he was a guy that really rallied the troops.

“All the kids loved playing for him. He took chances.”

Simmons paused.

“Sometimes he took some chances that I didn't want him to take and we'd talk about it — ‘What the heck are you doin', man?'”

Simmons still asks Ryan that question as the two have remained close, but nowadays, the query relates to Ryan's long gray hair.

“What are you trying to do here?” Simmons will ask of the wavy locks. “What is this?”

Ryan was more of a mullet guy during his OSU days. But then as now, Crazy Rob could coach up a defense.

That has never been a question.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

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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