Ex-NFL Coach Rex Ryan Is Having Fun Putting His Foot Fetish Forward

The self-proclaimed foot expert is leaning into his fixation with feet with a new campaign with Dr. Scholl’s

September 29, 2022 6:21 am
Rex Ryan at the 2017 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour.
Rex Ryan is stepping up his willingness to discuss his love for feet.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

This is  Life After Football, a series that examines how current and former NFL players, coaches and executives are building a legacy beyond the gridiron.

Prior to a Divisional Round playoff game in 2011 against the New York Jets, former New England wide receiver Wes Welker stepped to the podium to address the media and proceeded to make double-digit references to feet, including saying that young players couldn’t just stick their “toe in the water” during the postseason and that the Patriots were “being good little foot soldiers” during practice that week.  

Welker’s comments were meant as jabs at then-Jets coach Rex Ryan and a foot fetish that’s been exposed earlier that season after videos of the 59-year-old’s wife Michelle showing off her feet and toes went viral thanks to Deadspin. At the time, Ryan referred to the videos as a “personal matter” and refused to discuss them with the media.

Sensitive as Ryan may have been to the matter at the time, Welker’s attempt to rattle the veteran coach didn’t work and the Patriots were defeated in the game 28-21 despite being considered shoe-ins to win prior to kickoff. Adding injury after his insults, Welker was benched by Bill Belichick to start the game due to his comments and was forced to sit out New England’s first offensive possession after initially taking the field to return a punt.

As Ryan, who has become far more comfortable discussing his infatuation with feet and is now mentoring the University of North Carolina football team with “toe tips” on proper foot care maintenance on behalf of Dr. Scholl’s, tells InsideHook, he still appreciates the gesture from Belichick even though the two have never spoken about it.

Rex Ryan appears for Dr. Scholl's in September in New York City
Rex Ryan is offering “toe tips” as part of his new role as a spokesman for Dr. Scholl’s.
Getty Images for Dr. Scholl’s

“I do think it was kind of cool Belichick benched Wes. Belichick is an old football guy and he thought it was a bad deal to disrespect me,” says Ryan. “We never talked about it, but I think he knows I appreciate what he did and the message it would send. It was a respect thing and I appreciate that. I’ve never had more respect for a coach more than I have for Bill Belichick and that’s the absolute truth. There’s nobody more consistent than he is and I think it’s absolutely hilarious listening to him sometimes, but it works for him. If I tried the same approach, it would’ve been a disaster. You have to be true to yourself.”

For Ryan, who now works as an NFL analyst for ESPN, being true to himself means stepping into the spotlight to poke fun at his tender feeling for tootsies with the new campaign. “When I got the call from Dr. Scholl’s, I thought someone was busting my chops. They told me that I was uniquely qualified because I’m an expert in football and in feet. I thought about it and decided I was all-in,” he says. “I coached in the NFL for 30 years and I’m probably better known for being the foot coach than anything else. I’m that guy. I own it. My wife is gorgeous and she has gorgeous feet. I’m not the only guy who has a foot fetish and I’d be okay with it if I was.”

And does Michelle feel the same way?

“She was not happy with the videos that came out I can assure you that. Talk about being in the doghouse,” Ryan says. “Now she’s cool with it and is behind it all the way. We’ve been married for 35 years. I’m not perfect or whatever, but I’m okay being in my skin. To me, the fact that it’s my wife makes it a love story.”

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