Rex Ryan is more than just the head coach of the Jets and more than just a football fan. He's a fan of the sports world, and he's shown that over the weekend and this week as he and some of his assistant coaches take in some of the World Cup games in Brazil.
"Am I a soccer buff? No, not at all. But yeah, I'm a sports fan," Ryan told me recently while watching Portugal's World Cup team practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. After the full-squad minicamp concluded last week, he said, "I'm going to Brazil with Anthony Lynn, DT [Dennis Thurman] and [Jeff] Weeks. "We're going just to be a part of it."
Last year Rex was more than a part of one annual event in Pamplona, Spain, participating as a mozo in the running of the bulls. But his interests in sport transcend not just football and o jogo bonito ("the beautiful game" in Portuguese) and Spanish and Portuguese events.
"I've been to the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont, the Preakness, the World Series, the Stanley Cup," Ryan recounted. "Then I've coached in a Super Bowl and been to a bunch of 'em. This is something I like to do."
The coach even prepped for the World Cup by studying the Portuguese players one evening at the Jets' complex.
"They all look like David Nelson, all about 6'4", 6'5", lean guys," he said, referencing his own lean wide receiver. "The way they dribble the ball is crazy. Here's some of the greatest athletes in the world, but everything's with their legs and feet. It's different than our guys. The foot-eye coordination's phenomenal, obviously, and they can run all day. I guess the difference is they're not getting hit as hard as our guys are."
Rex was spotted at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, taking in the Belgium-Russia game in a red-white-and-blue USA shirt. We don't think he had time to catch a plane up to Manaus to watch the Americans' 2-2 draw with Portugal and we don't know what his itinerary is, but we would assume that Thursday's United States-Germany match in Recife, more than 1,000 miles up the Atlantic Coast from Rio, would be on the itinerary.
Once his road trip concludes, he and his coaches will make their way back stateside, where they'll finish up their final R&R for six or seven months, do their last-minute preparations, then head up to Cortland, NY, for Jets training camp.
Then at some point down the road, Ryan will take a look at the Jets' 2015 offseason schedule and the sports calendar and set up plans for next year's world sporting event.
"Even tennis," he said. "I'm not a great fan of tennis, but I'm a fan of sports."
Coincidentally, Wimbledon day one is today. We're not saying Rex will be dining on strawberries and cream at Centre Court a year from now, but it has to be considered a possibility.