LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Rex Ryan never coached a single day for the Bears.
But his father sure did.
Ryan's ties to the Bears organization dates back to the time when his father, Buddy, served as defensive coordinator (1978-1985) for both Neill Armstrong and Mike Ditka. Ryan and his brother [Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan] served as ball boys in high school for those great Bears teams, and even stood on the sidelines during Super Bowl XX.
Ryan's father, Buddy, and Ditka were both carried off the field after the Bears dismantled New England 46-10 to secure the franchise's first championship since 1963.
"I remember painting sleds and gold posts and that kind of stuff," Ryan said. "You name it, we did it all, my brother and I.
"Walter Payton, as you guys who covered the Bears back then would know, was such a tremendous person that I actually named my oldest son after Walter. It's Payton spelled the appropriate way. It was just some amazing times. To watch that team, they were average, they were always tougher than nails, but then when they got the quarterback in place with Jim McMahon and all that, and to watch them win that Super Bowl -- I was on the sideline for that game -- what a great feeling."
Not only were the Bears of that generation dominant on the field -- five straight division titles from 1984-1988, but many went on to have successful coaching careers in the NFL. While Ryan and his brother Rob aren't technically considered ex-Bears, it's impressive that even the former ball boys went on to make a mark in the league.
"It's amazing, isn't it," Ryan said. "You look at Ron Rivera. They are only leading the league in defense in San Diego. Then obviously, when Leslie Frazier, Mike Singletary and Jeff Fisher, it's really something. A lot of it stems from Ditka and the type of leader he was. I think, sometimes he's underrated because he's such a tough guy and personality, but he's a hell of a coach and a heck of a leader."