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Buddy Ryan's passion, intensity lives on in twin sons

The NFL on Tuesday lost one of the game's most celebrated and feared defensive innovators with the passing of Buddy Ryan at age 85.

His twin sons, Rex and Rob, lost much more.

"On behalf of the entire Ryan family, we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their sympathies, prayers and warm thoughts with the passing of my dad," Rex Ryan said in a statement Tuesday. "He was many things to many people -- outstanding coach, mentor, fierce competitor, father figure, faithful friend and the list goes on. But to me and my brothers Rob and Jim, he was so much more. He was everything you want in a dad -- tough when he had to be, compassionate when you didn't necessarily expect it, and a loving teacher and confidant who cherished his family. He truly was our hero.

"For Rob and me, we've had the great fortune of sharing the coaching profession that he was so proud of and cherished so much. There is no way we can possibly begin to measure how much football we have learned from him over the years and we are forever thankful to him for instilling within us his unwavering love for the game of football.

"While today is a tough day for all of us in the Ryan family, we are consoled in knowing how much dad was loved by so many and the love he gave back in return. Though we will miss him dearly, we take comfort in knowing that his memory will live on through all of us."

Buddy Ryan's passion for football and knack for searing sound bites run wild in the blood of his sons, who always adored and doted over their father.

"My dad never wanted us fighting, but he always told us, 'Never walk away a loser,'" Rex once told The Buffalo News. "And I never did."

Rex and Rob also pulled liberally from Buddy's unrelenting defensive philosophy -- in essence: badger, smother and destroy quarterbacks.

"When you are young coaches, you are always learning," Rex told's Jenny Vrentas. "We grew up under the arm of our dad, who was a creative innovator in the way he approached things, and that's where we got our foundation."

Buddy's third son, Jim Ryan, told The Buffalo News last summer: "My dad, I think, built up a controversial-but-awesome football name. Rex and Rob are carrying that on."

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka agrees.

"You gotta attack. And I think (his sons) have that mentality, where you attack on defense," Ditka told NFL HQ on Tuesday. "You gotta keep the offense off balance, you can't let them do what they want to do. You gotta take something away from them ... and when you look at the philosophy, it's an attacking defense ... and that's what I see from both of them. And I think they got that from Buddy, there's no question about that."

With Rex and Rob now paired together in Buffalo, both brothers acknowledged to Vrentas that they joined forces to give their father a gift before he parted.

"Because, who knows?" Rob said. "He's not going to be able to watch us coach for much longer, I don't think."

Buddy won't have the chance to see his offspring wage war on the AFC East, but everything he brought to the NFL -- his love for the game, his braggadocio and his utter disdain for signal-callers -- remains alive and well in his twin sons. That's football.

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