LATE JET VERLON BIGGS: So he set up this machine in practice that worked on spring action—a big pad with an iron rod inside it, maybe six feet high and three feet wide—that came exploding at you. And he had us lie on the ground one by one and jump up and hit this thing when he pulled the lever to release it, and if you didn't hit it just right, that thing killed you. He called it Killer.
RUTIGLIANO: Ragged us all on that staff. Ragged me about being a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Ragged me about not smoking or cussing or drinking. But you could rag him back, and he could laugh at himself. There wasn't all that friction around him back then.
EX-JET ASSISTANT JOE SPENCER: Then Buddy put a second spring in the machine, to double the force. We had a big defensive tackle named Steve Chomyszak, nickname was House-mover. One day Killer knocked him out cold.
EWBANK: Never had to reprimand him. Everybody on our staff loved him. But I'll tell you, I never thought I'd see a hair drier in a football locker room till I saw Buddy using one.
A FRIEND: I think he got it into his head that being three years younger would make him a more attractive head coach candidate. All those newspaper stories about him going to war at 16 and becoming a master sergeant at 17 were rot, but they added to the myth. Buddy was at least 20 when he went to the front.
RUTIGLIANO: We were all fired by the Jets in '75. You have to remember how much of the uncertainty of coaching Buddy's been through. He went to the Vikings for a couple of years, coached that Purple People Eaters line, went to another Super Bowl.
Ex-VIKING COACH BUD GRANT: No, he wasn't nearly as belligerent or militaristic as the image that came across later. You laughed a lot around him.
RASHAD: But when you were getting on the bus after an away game, you'd better know which bus. There were always two—the bus Buddy Ryan sat in and the one Bud Grant sat in. Some players showered and dressed fast to make sure they didn't have to sit in Buddy Ryan's bus, because if you made a mistake, he was going to zing you. "All-Pro, my ass." That was his favorite expression. "Take your candy ass over to Bud's bus." Lotta empty seats in the Ryan Express.
BUDDY'S SISTER JUDY: I was with him when he got the stitches taken out of his arm from the melanoma. He fainted.
Chicago. Early Eighties. Off-season. Lying in bed. The dark before dawn. Neck hurting like a sonofabitch. Weeks, months, maybe years of scans and blood tests will be needed to know if the second cancer, which they've just cut out of his upper back, has metastasized, as it did with his brother three years ago; perhaps it's already feeding on Buddy's lungs, Buddy's liver. This time it was Joanie who noticed the melanoma, wider and deeper than the first one. This time his blood pressure rocketed off the charts when he entered the hospital to have it removed. This time he came out of anesthesia swinging his fists.