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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Rick Lyle

Catch Up with the Former Defensive End

Jets defensive end Rick Lyle, 1997-2000.LyleRsidelineI

It certainly isn't bad when a player makes a good impression on a future Hall of Fame coach.

In 1997, Bill Belichick, in his first year as the Jets' defensive coordinator under head coach Bill Parcells, also in his first year with the team, reached out to Rick Lyle, a defensive end who had played for him as a rookie three years earlier in Cleveland.

"I had just gotten released by the Baltimore Ravens, and Coach Belichick just kind of made an offer. I don't recall having any other offers at the time, so it was, 'Hey, if you want to keep playing football, come on up,'" Lyle said with a laugh.

While Belichick will be in the Hall of Fame approximately one second after he becomes eligible, Parcells already has a bust in the Canton shrine. What was Lyle's first impression of his new head coach?

"Very intelligent. A guy that knew how to read people and how to approach people differently," he said. "There's a lot of times when coaches are kind of a one-size-fits-all-type of coach, but he was one that would meet you where you were and help teach you what you need to know about football.

"He was very instructional about the little nuances of the game. Hidden yardage things, and different things that you don't really think about. Just much more in-depth into the game itself."

Earning the starting spot at left defensive end, Lyle and his teammates compiled a 9-7 record in 1997, the Jets' best mark in 12 years. It was an effort that began long before the season-opening 41-3 victory in Seattle.

"We had such a diverse group and the camaraderie we built through the times that we spent in the weight room and in the offseason were instrumental in that," Lyle said. "We had a lot of good participation in the offseason program that was kind of built into the mindset with the coaches. They wanted the guys there in the summers working out together and getting to know each other.

"Other than Wayne Chrebet, nobody's from Long Island and it's kind of out there. You're kind of stuck out on the island, so you spend a lot of time together and get to know each other. We gelled quickly."

The following season, the Jets went 12-4 and reached the AFC Championship Game. Something they hadn't done since 1982.   

"We stayed healthy, which was always a big key," Lyle said. "And we just had talented people in place with Curtis (Martin) at running back and a solid defense. Kind of a bend, don't break defense. The running game that we had with Vinny (Testaverde at quarterback) and Kevin Mawae at center, just a solid group. And with Wayne and Keyshawn (Johnson) catching balls, things just came together. We played well as a team and played pretty solid football for most of the season."

An undrafted free agent out of Missouri, Lyle was in the NFL for 10 seasons with Cleveland, Baltimore, the Jets and New England. His final game was the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXVIII win over Carolina. But it was his five years with the Jets, 1997-01, which he feels were the best years playing-wise of his career.

"I think I was in the right system at the right time with the right people," Lyle said. "We ran a 3-4. It was a true two-gap system under Coach Belichick, and it just fit me as a player and my skill set. I enjoyed that aspect of it. I was never a real flashy pass-rush guy. but I was a solid run-stopper. And just the fact that I was able to get into that time, that system, it helped me to have some longevity.

"And I always tell people that one of the coolest things I ever experienced was in that stadium when Fireman Ed would get up on his brother's shoulders and quiet everybody down, and do that, 'J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!' I still get chills just sitting here thinking about it. When that whole stadium did that, that was a very cool experience. Just their passion for the game and for the team, it was pretty special."

Lyle was able to hear those chants again in 2006 when he began his second career in the league as a strength and conditioning coach on Eric Mangini's staff with the Jets. However, just three years after retiring as a player, becoming a coach could have had its challenges.

"I still had former teammates on the team at the time and so it transitioned fairly quickly. Being in the weight room helped because in that setting, you're a little bit more of a peer, to a degree, where you're working with them and it's not kind of a coach-player relationship as much," said Lyle, who would hold the same position with the Browns, Chargers and Baylor University.

"Markus Paul was my first boss, and then Sal Alosi, and we ran everything with those guys. Every time they ran, we ran. So that gave us some credibility and some instant camaraderie that was kind of a special thing, I think. It doesn't happen with a lot of staffs."

Now semi-retired, Lyle spent this fall on the staff at Westlake (OH) High School as its defensive line coach. Having coached in the NFL for 13 years and the college for two, Lyle is enjoying the experience of working with high school kids not only as a coach but also as a supervision assistant.

"I learned from one of my coaches in college that coaching is more about the people than the X's and O's. Let them know that you care about them more as a person as opposed to just an athlete," Lyle said. "That's the big thing for me, especially at this level, being able to have a little bit of influence on young kids and kind of help mold them and teach them that it means more to be a good person as opposed to just a good athlete."

In his role as a supervision assistant, Lyle works in the weight room and has five classes daily, where he puts both boys and girls through training programs.

"You've got every aspect of kids. Some that have been training for a while, and then some that have never stepped foot in the weight room before. So it's challenging to meet them where they're at and try to get them all better," Lyle said.

"I told my principal it's a little bit like a math teacher trying to teach elementary math, two plus two, all the way up to the calculus. All in the same class at the same time. But it's really interesting and we have good time."

Lyle and his wife, Laura, have two daughters who are graduates of Westlake H.S. Haley is an ICU nurse in Columbus, OH. And Audrey is a grad student at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, and plans to be a grade school teacher.