Lexington businessman Gatewood Arnold and Louisville TV sports anchor Kent Taylor knew U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan when he was a "good, regular guy" at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who concentrated more on books than parties.
Neither one is surprised that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose Ryan, of Wisconsin, as his running mate.
Arnold, a 1988 graduate of Henry Clay High School, said he met Ryan in spring 1989, when the college freshmen successfully pledged for the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Miami. The two became friends and decided to room together their sophomore year in the frat house.
"He was very focused and smart in college. We had some high-level economics classes together, and I believe he could have taught the classes," said Arnold, 42. "He could tell you about what was going on in China, give you details about the political scene in Washington. He was super smart but not a nerd.
"It's not surprising to me that he's now running for vice president."
A lot of the young men who lived in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house at Miami in those days subscribed to Sports Illustrated, Taylor said, but "Paul took The Economist, had it delivered to the fraternity house."
Ryan graduated from Miami in 1992 with a double major in political science and economics.
Taylor said he at first had Ryan pegged as a future accountant, maybe an academic economist. "But when he got elected to Congress at (age) 28, it was one of those things where you're not surprised."
Arnold, who runs a construction and real estate company, and Taylor, the sports anchor of Louisville's WAVE-TV, had no Animal House recollections of Ryan in their college days.
"I remember he was quick with movie lines," Arnold said. "Something would happen and he would recite a line from a movie like Caddyshack or Fletch. We used to trade movie lines all the time.
"He always would stand out. He could pick people up with his humor."
Taylor, a year behind Arnold and Ryan at Miami, said Ryan was "focused very much on academics. He was not a big partier."
Sports, especially intra murals, were a big part of the fraternity house, Taylor said.
"But I don't remember Paul playing. He was more of a 'working-out' guy," Taylor said. "There was a little place near our house where you could work out, and I'd see Paul in there a lot."
Ryan, 42, is known today for his intense workout sessions every morning at 6. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all died of heart attacks before turning 60.
Arnold said he left the fraternity house in his junior and senior years to live off campus, but Ryan lived at the frat house for the rest of his college days.
They went to Florida together for spring break during their junior year, and Ryan visited Arnold in Lexington at least three times during their college years.
"He came home with me my sophomore year, and he loved Keeneland," Arnold said. "He would come to my parents' house for cookouts. There were never any wild times. He always seemed to stay in control, just a good, regular guy."
In 2009, Ryan returned to Miami to deliver the commencement address.
"I remember my own transformative experience here. ... It is here at Miami where I was able to find myself; I found a sense of direction and a sense of identity," Ryan said of his alma mater, according to a report on the university's Web site. "The incredible people that shaped me here — friends, faculty and mentors — have left an indelible mark on me that I'll forever be grateful for."
Busy lives have kept Arnold and Taylor from having contact with Ryan in years.
Arnold said he was pleased when fellow Republican Andy Barr, a Lexington attorney who is making his second bid this year for Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District seat, told him he met Ryan in Washington and Ryan's first question to him was whether he knew Arnold.
Taylor said Ryan's fame as a vice presidential candidate "makes me feel old. It's a little shocking, a little surreal, a little crazy."
After word got out that Romney had selected Ryan as his running mate, Taylor tweeted about Ryan being his fraternity brother at Miami.
The New York Times found that tweet and called Taylor to talk about Ryan. "I just told them he was a good guy, a smart guy," Taylor said.
Ryan is scheduled to be back in Kentucky on Oct. 11 for the only vice presidential debate against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden. It will be held at Centre College in Danville.
Arnold and Taylor said they hope to get a chance to reconnect with Ryan at the debate.
"It would just be great to see him again," Arnold said. "I first would congratulate him and tell him he certainly has my vote. We then could catch up on some personal stuff.
"We would probably throw some movie lines back and forth like old times."
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.