(CBS) Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary couldn’t help but chuckle.
Asked about his first impression of Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan when he was drafted by Chicago in 1981, Singletary wasn’t sure his words would be fit for the airwaves.
“We should bypass that for a year-and-a-half,” Singletary said on 670 The Score. “It wasn’t very good.”
That stemmed from Ryan’s personality — fiery as anyone, tough as they came, straightforward as can be. He was hard on his players, but there was also a true respect that could only be forged through the hard work and the crucible of teamwork. In time, Ryan molded the Bears defense into a championship unit during the 1985 season, with Singletary serving as a trusted leader for Ryan. And in time, Singletary came to love Ryan and consider him a father figure, becoming even more appreciative as the years went by.
Ryan passed away Tuesday at 85 in Kentucky. Since the news broke, fond memories of him having been pouring in from former Bears players. During a 35-year coaching career in the NFL, Ryan served as Chicago’s defensive coordinator from 1978-’85.
“You look back at it, and he’s kind of the second coming of General Patton,” Singletary said. “I think he was just so tough, so mentally charged in what he was doing and how he wanted to do it that he just had a set way of doing things.
“Buddy was a military guy. He played those games that you can play in the Army, where it’s a mind game. It’s basically to tear you down and build you up and have you believe in yourself and have you doing things the way he wants them done. You know he cares about you, but you have to get on the same page with him. Certain guys can take that. Certain guys can not. Fortunately, we had a number of guys that liked it. We grew up under it. Really, it was all about discipline, it was all about honesty, it was all about character in doing your job and being accountable. That’s what we did. We were accountable to him, and we were accountable to each other.”
Singletary fondly recalled a time when Ryan sat him down and told him, “We need to do things a certain way, and I have to know that I can trust you. I need you to put in the time.” Soon enough, the two were spending so much time together, including Tuesday off days, that Ryan’s wife got worried.
“One day he said, ‘I can no longer spend as much time with you anymore because my wife thinks I’m having an affair,'” Singletary said. “This is the truth. He said, ‘I got to go home, son.’ That’s how much time we spent together.”
Leading up to Ryan’s death, former Bears had been visiting him from “time to time” and keeping each other updated, Singletary said. And they’ll soon be getting together to remember him.
“Once we get through the initial time of his passing, I know we’ll get together and celebrate everything he meant to all of us in so many ways,” Singletary said.
Listen to Singletary’s full interview with Matt Spiegel and Jon Greenberg below.