When Jets coach Rex Ryan stepped on a scale a few days before the 2009 AFC Championship Game, he was shocked -- and frightened -- by the number: 348 pounds.
Ryan underwent lap-band surgery and, more than two years later, he happily announced Thursday that he has dropped 106 pounds. Now at 242, Ryan actually weighs less than Tim Tebow, his backup quarterback.
"I think we look real similar, except he's left-handed and I'm right-handed," Ryan said jokingly during a media blitz to promote lap-band surgery.
The always-upbeat Ryan, 49, was in a particularly good mood. His waistline is shrinking -- from 48 inches to 38 -- but his enthusiasm isn't. Training camp is less than a week away, and he's looking forward to erasing the memory of a disappointing 8-8 season in 2011.
"I think I've looked forward to this season probably more than any season I've had in my life," he told a handful of beat writers. "I have something to prove. Shoot, I'm excited about it."
Ryan came under heavy scrutiny after last season, when he admitted he "lost the pulse" of his team; the Jets collapsed in December amid locker-room unrest. It was Ryan's first go-round with adversity after reaching the AFC title game in his first two seasons leading the team.
Conceding that his ballyhooed Super Bowl guarantee before last season was a bad idea, Ryan has toned down the bravado. There's less talk -- and less Ryan, for that matter.
The man who used to devour 12 tacos in one sitting now shares an entree with his wife when they go out to dinner. His cholesterol is below 150, he said, and his blood pressure is 120 over 75.
The only negative to the weight loss, Ryan joked, is that he's had to discard most of his clothes. The only thing that still fits? His socks.
"I obviously look a lot better," he said. "I may not be a box of chocolates, but I look a hell of a lot better than I did."
Naturally, he gets razzed by his players, who say he has "buggy whips" for arms. His oldest son, Payton, jokes with him that he has a "six-pack."
"Yeah, I'll drink one," Ryan cracked.
Ryan, who is about 6-foot-3, walks at least 45 minutes each day and he feels so good that he actually has thought about running again. He can't remember the last time he felt that way. The turning point, he said, came in January 2010, when he was preparing for the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game and stepped on a scale.
"I mean, I couldn't believe it," he said. "I swear to you, I wanted to look to see if someone was behind me."
At that point, Ryan decided to have the lap-band procedure. He convinced his twin brother, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, to have the surgery. Rob since has dropped 60 pounds.
Rex Ryan declined recent interview requests to discuss his weight loss, saying Thursday he wanted to wait until he reached the 100-pounds-lost mark before talking about it. He reached that plateau during a recent vacation in Europe.
"I know how fortunate I am," said Ryan, a paid spokesman for lap-band surgery. "I make a lot of money doing something I love. I'm only one of 32 guys that has this position -- head coach in the National Football League. But without your health, what do you really have?
"I want to see my kids grow up, and I want to see their kids grow up. That was important to me. Selfishly, that's why I did it."