Minter Has Special Perspective in AFC Championship Game

Jan. 20, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. –  Kentucky co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter will have an interesting perspective when he watches the American Football Conference championship game on Sunday, as head coaches Rex Ryan of the New York Jets and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers are Minter protégés.

Minter hired Ryan and Tomlin during his term as head coach at the University of Cincinnati.  Minter spent 10 seasons at Cincinnati (1994-2003), winning more games than any coach in UC history, leading the Bearcats to four bowl games and one conference championship.  In addition to Ryan and Tomlin, Minter hired additional notable coaches at UC, including current Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, current Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Minter tabbed Ryan as defensive coordinator in 1996-97.  Previously, Ryan had been a coordinator at New Mexico Highlands (1989) and Morehead State (1990-93) but this was his first coordinator post at the Division I-A level.  In Ryan’s two seasons at UC, the Bearcats notched a pair of winning records and won the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, the school’s first postseason appearance in 47 seasons.

Minter and Ryan had not worked together before.  So, what prompted Minter to make the hire?

“When Rex inquired (about the job) in 1996, the name ‘Ryan’ rang a bell,” Minter said, as Rex is the son of Buddy Ryan, former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, and twin brother of Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.  “I had always been intrigued by the ‘46’ defense and I had the willingness to delegate the defense to become something different, which I felt we needed to do.  He still uses a lot of the eight-man fronts (with New York), ‘Bear’ looks (alignment) and multiple coverages that we used at Cincinnati.

“He hasn’t changed much (from when he was at Cincinnati).  He had a strong bravado, instilled confidence in everyone around him and wasn’t afraid to put himself out there.

“Rex is a kid at heart.  He believes in keeping it light and having a laugh.  He was a jokester and a prankster, always trying to ‘one-up’ the next staff member.  He kept things light and was a great joy to have on the staff.”

Also on the Cincinnati staff during that era was Joker Phillips, who coached the wide receivers in 1997 and the defensive backs in ’98.  Ironically, Tomlin replaced Phillips at UC and guided the Bearcat defensive backs the next two seasons, which were highlighted by a trip to the 2000 Motor City Bowl.  And, like Ryan, Minter did not know Tomlin before the hire.

“I was looking for a young defensive backs coach and Mike was only about 26 when he came here,” Minter said.  “When he came in the room, he had that look in his eye and you just knew he was a star in the making.  He was bright, a brilliant coach, hard-working, charismatic.  He had good rapport with the players and was a great teacher.

“Mike had the opportunity to leave after the first year for a job at Syracuse, which was a move up at that time because Syracuse was in the Big East (Conference) and Cincinnati was in Conference USA.  I told Mike that if he would bypass that job and stay here (at Cincinnati), that an even better opportunity would come.

“A year later, Monte Kiffin (defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) called and said he had heard about Mike.  I told him, ‘All you have to do is bring him in and you’ll hire him,’ and they did.”

Minter on ESPN2 First Take: Co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter will be a guest on ESPN2 “First Take” on Friday at 10:50 a.m. to discuss his perspective on having coached Rex Ryan and Mike Tomlin.

Two Wildcats Contending for Super Bowl: Eight former Kentucky Wildcats play for teams that qualified for the National Football League playoffs and two of the ex-Cats are still in contention for a berth in the Super Bowl.

On Sunday at 3 p.m. EST, punter Tim Masthay and the Green Bay Packers will visit the Chicago Bears for the National Football Conference championship.  Masthay is the Packers’ starting punter and averages 43.9 yards per punt.  He played at Kentucky from 2005-08 and earned All-Southeastern Conference honors his senior year.

On Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST, fullback John Conner and the New York Jets travel to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the American Football Conference crown.  Conner has seen extensive action on special teams during his rookie season and also has carried the ball eight times for 44 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.  He played at UK from 2005-09 and owns the school record for most games played in a career.

Locke and Lumpkin in All-Star Games: Kentucky football seniors Derrick Locke and Ricky Lumpkin will participate in upcoming all-star games.

Locke will play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. EST.  The game will be televised on the NFL Network.  During his UK career, Locke rushed for 2,618 yards and 22 touchdowns and caught 95 passes for 883 yards and three TDs.  He also holds the school career record for kickoff return average at 27.1 yards per return, including a pair of 100-yard touchdowns.  

Lumpkin is set for the Texas vs. the Nation game in San Antonio on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. EST.  Television will be handled by CBS College Sports.  As a Wildcat, Lumpkin totaled 82 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks.