Jack Youngblood gave it his all. He is baffled by what his legacy has become - the guy who played football with a broken leg - because to him, to keep playing after the injury was a no brainer.
“I’ve got a license on that story, so that’s going to cost you a dollar,” said Youngblood.
Youngblood entered the NFL with some pretty large shoes to fill. Deacon Jones had already slated his legacy at left defensive end with Merlin Olsen alongside him at left tackle. The Rams traded Jones the next year and Youngblood filled in, splitting time with Fred Dryer before taking over the full-time role in 1973. In total, he spent the six seasons playing alongside Olsen.
“If there’s one thing that came out of those seven years with Merlin, it’s every snap,” Youngblood said. “He used to say that, ‘Every snap.’ And I knew exactly what that meant.”
Olsen helped teach Youngblood the importance of playing hard each snap and that you have to give all of your effort on each play was a battle.
“Being a rookie, you need lots of guidance,” said Youngblood. “You need mentors that can lead you and guide you in the right direction. I was extremely blessed by having been drafted into the Los Angeles Rams. And, who were they? The Fearsome Foursome.”
“A lot of people would think that, well, maybe that would be frightening,” said Youngblood. “But, I’ve always thought it was a blessing and a challenge to learn how to play and learn how to play from those guys. And then have the opportunity to play alongside of them. It is a learning and an earning process.”
Youngblood was the Rams’ first round draft pick in 1971 NFL Draft. He eventually served as the Rams’ defensive captain and was voted to the NFL All-Pro team in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, and 1979. He earned All-NFC honors seven times and played in seven straight Pro Bowls following each season from 1973 to 1979.
The honor of serving as a captain for the team was one Youngblood took to heart, so when he broke his leg in the second quarter of the divisional playoffs against Dallas, the only logical next step was to tape it up and finish the game with his teammates.
The Rams did beat Dallas and earned a trip to the Championship game against Tampa, which they won to put them in Super Bowl XIV. The Rams came up short in the big game, losing to Pittsburgh 19-31. Despite the outcome, competing at the highest level in football with a broken leg in two and a half games, will always be the Youngblood legend.
After retirement, the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis and Youngblood slowly lost connection to the team that he gave so much to. Over the past couple years, the Rams have mended that relationship and it is continuing to flourish.
Youngblood was honored on the field during this season’s Monday Night Football match-up with the Seahawks on October 28. While he was in St. Louis, Rams defensive line coach Mike Waufle asked him to come to Rams Park and spend some time in the defensive line meeting room with the current players.
“That’s a sacred place and I was truly honored and flattered that he would allow – you don’t allow many people into that domain there – that’s a very, very special place that only a few have been,” said Youngblood. “And then to be asked to talk to them and give them your perspective, that’s even a higher level of respect.”
Before that trip, Youngblood had made one other important connection with his former team. A couple days before the 2008 NFL Draft, he picked up the phone and called the Rams’ personnel department with an important message. Youngblood had been following the draft speculation and a popular storyline was that the Rams were trying to decide between Virginia’s
“Like an old, grumpy football player, I called him and said, ‘Hey, you better draft that Long boy because the other one will let you down,” said Youngblood. “It tickled me when they got Chris.”
Youngblood continues to follow Long’s career with the Rams, and pays especially close attention to the defensive line.
“I’ve got blood in the game,” said Youngblood. “I’ve got some past history here that I want to see continue. Merlin and I talked about that before he passed a couple years ago, about how we really wanted to see the legacy of the Fearsome Foursome to continue. It wasn’t going to be us, but we really wanted to see some the players to come on and take that attitude, take that perspective of playing the game and continue it along.”
The Rams players, coaches, front office staff and fans are thrilled to have Youngblood as a part of their family tradition. His rugged and tough persona continues to be idolized among football enthusiasts on the field and in the stands.
“I’m just proud that the St. Louis fans can remember that far back,” said Youngblood. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to be recognized as one of the old timers.”
Nowadays, Youngblood spends a lot of time working hard on the concussion issue. He has joined in with the NFLPA and the league office in hopes to put a program together to be used in today’s locker rooms for preventative measures, as well as continued care for alumni.
“We’ve allowed this problem to linger way too long and we’ve lost way too many of our friends and playmates to the issues of multiple traumatic brain injury,” said Youngblood.
A very passionate Youngblood said to look for those programs to be announced in the next two months.
In the meantime, welcome back Jack.