By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Barry Rubin’s been there before. He’s never going to be there again. So the former Northwestern State fullback and tight end is soaking in every moment of Super Bowl LVII, as the retiring strength and conditioning coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
After 26 seasons in the NFL, and 15 before that coaching at NSU, LSU and ULM, the 65-year-old and his wife Nicole will head south for good, to settle into what has been a vacation home in Vero Beach, Fla., and start a less consuming lifestyle.
A career that has earned him enshrinement in the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame, along with NSU’s N-Club Hall of Fame, officially ends Sunday night. There’s been success at every stop, particularly since he reached the NFL as the Green Bay Packers’ first assistant strength coach in 1995.
“This is it, so it’s great to go out on this stage. I hope we can win it, but it does feel great to be here,” said the Monroe native, a Neville High product who is coaching in his third Super Bowl.
“It is really hard to get here. My first year in Green Bay, we went to the NFC Championship and got beat. The next year, we won. Then we went again, and lost,” he said. “It took me over 20 years to get back. It doesn’t happen regularly.”
But it is the second Super Bowl in three years for the Chiefs, led by veteran coach Andy Reid, who met Rubin as an assistant in Green Bay, and as a head coach, brought him to Philadelphia and then along for the last 10 years in Kansas City.
Rubin has found himself in football paradise.
“Coach Reid is top-notch,” he said. “We have great coaches, a phenomenal quarterback, and real good, hard-nosed people who want to win and work hard.”
Then there’s the fabled Chiefs’ Kingdom – a fan base in middle America that is as passionate as it gets.
“You feel like you’re at a college game. And it’s the loudest stadium in the world. The fans love the Chiefs,” said Rubin. “This franchise is so deeply ingrained in NFL history with the Hunt family, all the Hall of Fame players, all the success. It’s so exciting playing in Arrowhead Stadium. I will miss that. At least the last game I coached in there, we won. It’s been a blessing to be here.”
Rubin has crossed paths with many greats of the game, from the Hunt family to coaches and Pro Football Hall of Fame players. Along the way, he’s also gotten to know one of country music’s most avid fans, superstar singer Kenny Chesney. A conversation between the pals from a few years ago pops up occasionally on Chesney’s No Shoes Radio on SiriusXM channel 57.
“I’ve become good friends with him,” said Rubin. “When I was with the Eagles, he was doing a concert and they called to ask if he could come over and work out.
“He came in, and it was just he and I. We hit it off. We’re both from the South. He loves working out. That is a tough little dude. He gets after it. He eats perfect. He does it right,” Rubin said. “We’ve stayed in touch, and he’s been to Arrowhead several times. He’s so awesome, a lot of fun, and I think the world of him.”
Rubin’s career path unfolded at NSU. Son of a Monroe jeweler, he encountered two of A.L. Williams’ assistants with the Demons, Al Miller and Kent Johnston, who both preceded Rubin into the NFL strength and conditioning ranks, and are also in the profession’s hall of fame along with their protégé.
Johnston was the strength coach in Green Bay when he got the green light to hire an assistant. He called Rubin. Their paths had crossed again in the SEC, when Rubin was running things at LSU and Johnston was at Alabama.
“We worked together in Green Bay for four years, and those were some of the most fun years I’ve ever had. What a learning experience with him,” said Rubin. “Coach Miller taught me so much. I learned so much and still do. We talk every other week, probably.”
His Demon days are treasured, not only for the memories, but for deep relationships with Williams, then-assistant Joe Raymond Peace, and his teammates.
“I loved it at Northwestern. Especially my senior year, we had such a good football team. Bobby Hebert, Joe Delaney, Mark Duper, Gary Reasons, Warren Griffith, our center, a ton of top-notch players. I loved Coach Williams, and Joe Peace, my coach, what a great coach who had a big influence on my life,” he said.
It was beyond comprehension that Rubin would join two of his colleagues on NSU’s offensive front, Petey Perot and Bill Johnson, by achieving long careers in the NFL – Perot for seven years as a standout guard, then a lengthy college coaching career, nearly all of it at Louisiana Tech, where he developed Willie Roaf into an eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Johnson for nearly 20 years as a highly-respected defensive line coach.
“I got to play with Petey, one of my best friends, and with Bill, another of my very best friends,” he said. “And guys like Butch Ballard, J.P. Dunbar, Gary Morgan … lots of great people. Now I’m going to come back to Northwestern every season, to see them and watch the Demons play. I’m proud to have come from Northwestern, that’s for sure.”
Rubin is among 12 NSU alums who have taken part in at least one Super Bowl. The first, fullback Sidney Thornton and Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith, collided in Super Bowl XIII (Steelers 35, Cowboys 31).
When he walks off the field Sunday night, Rubin doesn’t know what’s next, except it won’t be anything as intense as what he’s done since he put up his own shoulder pads and looped a whistle around his neck.
“I don’t want to retire from life. I want to do a little something. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.”
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org