Los Angeles — The reason Pro Bowl linebacker Jack (Hacksaw) Reynolds is no longer with the Los Angeles Rams, after 11 years in the land of milk and honey, has nothing to do with his ability to continue to play effectively in the National Football League.
Rams management, already up to its hip pads in well-paid veterans demanding long-term, no-cut contracts, simply decided to make the 33-year-old Reynolds an example to some of their other personnel. Like, this can happen to you, too!
So they gave Jack didn't remain idle very long. He's now with the San Francisco 49ers, a rebuilding team that can use his stabilizing effect on young players. When coaches talk about players needing motivation they're not talking about Jack, who even performs in exhibition games as though they were August editions of the Super Bowl.
For Reynolds, no opposing blocker, running back, or pass receiver is ever too tough. Even though he has never had blazing speed, Jack has something even better -- football instincts. Sometimes with the Rams he seemed to know where the ball was going before the player due to carry it boke from the huddle.
There are plenty of bigger and younger linebackers in the league than the 6 ft. 1 in., 227-pound Reynolds, but none with a better flair for getting past opposing blockers. Jack never looks to see whether doors are marked push or pull, he just goes through them as a matter of course.
When the 49ers signed Reynolds, Coach Bill Walsh said: "Any time you can get a player the quality of Jack Reynolds, you find a way to do it, and defense has been one of our problems. Football is played two ways -- when you have the ball and when the other team has the ball -- and you have to be prepared in each instance.
"the days when an NFL team could rely on eight or nine good defensive players and be competitive are gone. Now you need at least 18 [the starters plus some backups] to have a chance. Even with a first-round draft pick, we couldn't have found anyone with Jack's credentials."
One of the best stories in football is how Reynolds got his nickname. It happened after his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, had been embarrassed 36-0 by the University of Mississippi in a football game the Volunteers expected to win. Among other things, Jack felt he had not made his accustomed number of tackles.
Looking for a way to vent his frustrations, Reynolds noted an abandoned and battered 1953 Chevrolet sitting in a nearby field.
After 11 years the story, like Topsy, has grown. But basically what Jack did was get himself a hacksaw and begin the noble task of sawing the frame into two pieces.
Some storeies credit Reynolds with 24 hours of continous sawing; some 48. And the number of hacksaw blades used has become garbled in the retelling, although 24 is a popular figure.
When pro scouts heard the story and realized how much Reynolds wanted to win, attendance at Tennessee football games increased by exactly the number of teams in the NFL at that time.
But it was the Los Angeles Rams who made him their No. 1 pick in the 1970 college draft, and they never regretted it, even though a knee injury sidelined Jack through most of the 1971 season.
When writers tried to get Reynolds to knock the Rams after they released him, he wouldn't do it. He never complained either, when a number of his best years went by without his getting an invitation to play in the NFL's Pro Bowl game.
If you want to find out about Jack, the place to start is with any of his teammates, who can quote chapter and verse on the energy he expends in pursuit of opposing ball carriers. I mean, this guy wants to win so badly that he even takes his own movie projector on the road so he can study films of rival teams on his own.
Maybe Reynolds has crested a little, and maybe the Rams felt they would be making a mistake not to get somebody ready to fill his position while there's still plenty of tiem. But if Jack doesn't eventually become a San Francisco attraction, along with those little cable cars, Fisherman's Wharf, and Alcatraz, most of his exteammates will be surprised.