WHERE ARE THEY NOW? CATCHING UP WITH HACKSAW REYNOLDS
One of the NFL's best nicknames in the '70s and '80s belonged to Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds. He earned that moniker while playing linebacker for the University of Tennessee, and it stuck with him throughout a career that included two Pro Bowl selections while with the then-Los Angeles Rams, and two Super Bowl victories with the San Francisco 49ers.
SOTL.com caught up with Reynolds recently in Nashville, as he and other NFL alumni were provided medical screenings at an event arranged by the NFL Player Care Foundation and School of the Legends.
By TOM WEIR
Here's how Reynolds earned the "Hacksaw" name:
In 1969 Tennessee's football team was ranked third in the nation after forging a 7-0 record while outscoring opponents 244-74. With a national championship looking possible the Vols next game was on the road at Mississippi. But they unraveled there, getting drubbed 38-0 at the hands of Archie Manning.
Tennessee had made the mistake of circulating "Archie Who?" buttons, and Steve Kiner, Tennessee's All-American linebacker had riled the Rebels by saying they didn't have a team of horses, but rather one that was made up more of "mules."
"I was so upset we lost like that, I had to do something," said Reynolds, who turns 65 in November.
So he went to work on a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air that had been abandoned across the Tennessee River from the UT campus. The project started on Sunday, and Reynolds finished up on Monday after about eight total hours of sawing that wore out 13 blades.
Today, the retired Reynolds splits his time between homes in Miami and in the Bahamas. At the Player Care event he pointed to other, younger players and said, "I didn't play the same game that some of these guys did. When I played a guard was 220 pounds, a tight end 230."
Reynolds was listed at 6-1 and 235 during most of his career. As a middle linebacker he called defensive plays for the Rams and helped pioneer film study with 16 millimeter game clips he spliced together himself. But as a first-round draft choice in 1970 his first contract paid only $20,000, he said.
That first season, with the legendary George Allen as his head coach, wasn't an easy one.
"I wasn't allowed to miss a single practice," Reynolds said. "The unwritten rule was that rookies didn't miss practice."
Reynolds said he managed to keep playing at one point in his career despite having a case of "walking pneumonia" because, "If we didn't play, we were gone."
He also remembers briefly taking himself out of a game against St. Louis, after taking a hard hit that in retrospect likely dealt him a concussion.
"I said, 'I'm messed up,' and I took myself out. But I played the whole second half and never missed a play. With 1:30 left in the game I turned to somebody on the bench and said, 'What's the score?' "
Reynolds was on the Rams' team that lost Super Bowl XIV to Pittsburgh, but he had a bitter parting with the club and was released after the 1980 season. That ultimately proved fortuitous, because he landed with a San Francisco team that would soon coalesce under Bill Walsh.
At the time, Reynolds didn't know much about Walsh, who had done 8-24 in his first two seasons with the 49ers.
"The only reason I went to San Francisco," Reynolds said, "was so that I could play against the Rams two times a year."
Reynolds got his revenge as San Francisco went 6-2 against the Rams during his four seasons in San Francisco. In a career that spanned from 1970-84 he appeared in 13 postseason games, and he was on Walsh's winning teams in Super Bowls XVI and XIX.
At Super Bowl XVI he greeted reporters who wanted to interview him on Media Day with printouts that explained the history of the "Hacksaw" nickname, and on game day he got off the team bus at the stadium already fully dressed in his uniform.
Reynolds was a fierce player, as you'd expect from someone nicknamed "Hacksaw."
"I had a collection of crushed face masks," he said. "I wore my helmet as tight as I could possibly get it on my head, and I always had two helmets on the sideline, in case I ruined the one I was wearing."
That, Reynolds said, points out one big difference between today's game and the one he was taught decades ago. Ask him if he's one of the many former NFL players involved in class-action lawsuits against the league over concussion issues, and Reynolds answers with a question:
"Well, can I sue the University of Tennessee, too? I say that because I spent my entire career doing what they taught me there in 1966 -- hit them with my head first, and with my neck bowed."
Adds Reynolds: "I was always taught to lead with my head. I was told to hit them right down the middle of the numbers, with the head."
But it's the "Hacksaw" name that will always define him. Or, as Reynolds put it, "I always liked to say I was a cut above the other guys."