Chance to Coach in NFL With Colts Too Good for Rychleski to Pass Up
INDIANAPOLIS – The way he told the story, Ray Rychleski never planned on this.
Rychleski, recently hired as the Colts' special teams coach, said in a recent interview he was perfectly happy coaching college football, so much so that he told his boss – University of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier – he wouldn't have left for another college job.
But in January, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell called.
And Rychleski said recently that changed everything.
"I didn't want to leave South Carolina," Rychleski said in a recent interview with the Scranton (Pa.) Edition News. "I loved it there. Coach Spurrier and his family were fantastic to me. I told him I wasn't going to leave for another college job, but this opunity may never come along again so I had to do it. . . .
". . . He understood the opportunity," Rychleski added of Spurrier.
Caldwell, who coached with Rychleski at Penn State in 1991 then hired him as an assistant when he was the head coach at Wake Forest from 1993-2000, recently painted a picture of Rychleski as the prototypical special teams coach: a motivational, theatrical coach, but one with an emphasis on fundamentals.
"You can anticipate that Ray's a very enthusiastic guy who is creative," Caldwell said with a smile.
A classic special teams coach?
"Exactly," Caldwell said, nodding. "He's one of those high-energy guys."
Caldwell said that aggressiveness was a trait Rychleski's units showed in college, first at Wake Forest, then at Maryland and South Carolina.
The Gamecocks this past season ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in kickoff coverage during his lone season at the school, and in seven seasons before that as the tight ends coach/special teams coordinator at Maryland he coached some of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top special teams units.
Maryland during his tenure there had no punts blocked, the longest streak in Division I-A football. His units also blocked 22 kicks and had eight returns for touchdowns during that span.
As much as the opportunity to coach in the NFL, Rychleski said it was the opportunity to rejoin Caldwell that drew him to Indianapolis. Recently, during an interview with the Scranton Edition News, he recalled the two bonding while assistants under legendary coach Joe Paterno at Penn State.
Rychleski was a graduate assistant, with Caldwell the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator.
"We became friends while working together at Penn State," he said. ". . . After practice in the spring and even in fall we'd walk around campus everyday. In those 45 minutes we'd do a lot of talking and we became very good friends."
But Rychleski said while he is friendly with Caldwell, he got his current position on more than friendship. In 2007, Maryland led the country in kickoff return yardage defense, allowing 16.56 yards per KOR. Rychleski also coached an All-Atlantic Coast Conference punter for six straight years (2001-06), had one specialist selected in the NFL draft and had five others sign as free agents.
"When I was younger I would have done anything for the opportunity to coach in the NFL," he told the Scranton Edition News. "But Jim couldn't hire me unless I had a resume. Sure it helped that I previously worked with him, but it's a bottom-line business. You have to produce.
"It's very rewarding to do a good job over the years and people recognize this. If Jim didn't hire me I wouldn't have took it any other way, than I just wasn't the right guy for the job.
"It just wouldn't have been the right way to be hired just because of our friendship."
It wasn't long after he heard his old friend had been hired as the Colts' head coach that Caldwell was calling to offer him a job. In fact, it wasn't long at all.
"It's quite an interesting story," he told the newspaper. "I was at the national coaching convention and there were rumors going around Coach (Tony) Dungy was going to retire (from the Colts). When I heard that I thought, 'It sure would be neat if Coach (Jim) Caldwell called me.' Ten minutes later he called."