When he was hired at South Carolina, Ray Rychleski jokingly proclaimed himself Columbia’s most eligible bachelor and bought a townhouse in the heart of the Five Points entertainment district.
So it would seem safe to assume that Rychleski, who grew up in Pennsylvania’s coal region, would take at least a little time to check out the South Beach scene this week while in Miami for the Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints.
Maybe next time.
Rychleski, who spent one year at USC before joining Jim Caldwell’s Indianapolis Colts staff last January, will be joined in Miami by 16 friends and family. The group includes seven cousins from Pennsylvania whose hotel bill Rychleski is footing.
But make no mistake: This is a business trip. "This is different. We have unfinished business," Rychleski said during a phone interview last week. "In the ’80s and ’90s, whether it’s a player, coach, or manager that’s associated with a team, there’s been a lot of screw-ups at the Super Bowl, and it’s affected the team. And I think people have learned from that.
"The only fun I’ll get is winning the football game."
As much as Rychleski enjoys sipping the occasional Yuengling and watching the Philadelphia Phillies, he takes his football seriously.
A longtime bachelor with no children, the Colts’ special teams coordinator said there are nights when he stays in the office longer than he might if he had family waiting for him at home. When he worked for Caldwell at Wake Forest, someone began calling Rychleski "24-7" because of his round-the-clock football obsession.
That might be why he has always gotten along well with Caldwell, who met Rychleski in 1991 when both were on Joe Paterno’s Penn State staff. Caldwell, the Nittany Lions’ quarterbacks coach, and Rychleski, an offensive graduate assistant, used to take 45-minute walks around campus. Sometimes they talked strategy; other days they discussed life.
"You can learn a lot about each other during those walks," Rychleski said. "He always told me if he got a head job, he would want to hire me."
Caldwell was true to his word when he was hired at Wake in 1993. After an eight-year stint at Wake, Rychleski spent seven years running Maryland’s special teams, which did not have a punt blocked during his tenure.
The 52-year-old Rychleski was in charge of special teams and tight ends at USC, overseeing a kickoff coverage team that ranked second in the SEC and working with All-SEC tight end Jared Cook.
Rychleski had no plans to leave USC -- until Caldwell called and told him he was taking over for Tony Dungy in Indy. Caldwell, who was an assistant under Dungy the previous eight seasons, is the fifth coach in NFL history to make the Super Bowl in his first season.
"As the world is finding out, he’s a great football coach," Rychleski said. "The people in this building knew, but the people outside this building are starting to find out how special a guy he is."
Caldwell has had to make a couple of tough decisions. He elected to stick with 42-year-old kicker Matt Stover in the playoffs after Adam Vinatieri, perhaps one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history, returned from knee surgery.
Vinatieri has four Super Bowl rings, including two he delivered with game-winning kicks with New England. But he will be on the sidelines against the Saints unless Stover, who has made all five of his field goals in the playoffs, is injured or falters. Rychleski is more concerned with New Orleans returners Reggie Bush and Courtney Roby, who had a 61-yard kickoff return in the NFC title game against Minnesota.
Rychleski kept up with the Gamecocks on the Internet last season and "had to hear crap" from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning when Tennessee beat USC in Knoxville. After the Colts downed the Jets in the AFC title game, Rychleski received congratulatory voicemails or text messages from several USC coaches and staffers, including Steve Spurrier.
Three of USC’s assistant strength coaches are living in Rychleski’s Five Points townhouse, which remains on the market.
"I have a great admiration for the people there. I can’t tell you how wonderful they were to me," Rychleski said. "And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be back there. And if I would, I’d be just as lucky as when I came here."
------ Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.