Jack Youngblood played defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams from 1971-1984 after playing college football at the University of Florida. With the 19th overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, Youngblood would go on to play his entire NFL career with the Rams. He achieved numerous accomplishments from appearing in seven Pro Bowls, competing in a Super Bowl and, ultimately, to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Q: What are you up to these days now that you're done playing football?
Youngblood: I'm trying to stay out of trouble to be honest with you. When you have a little more time on your hands outside of the work and the routine you had while you were playing, it's so different than the real world. I have a farm up in Jefferson County, so I try to get up there 3-5 days a month because 200 acres will keep you busy for sure and that takes up quite a bit of time and effort.
Q: Describe to me what it was like finding out you were drafted by the Los Angeles Rams?
Youngblood: What in the world just happened? In 1971 there wasn't ESPN. I had met maybe two or three guys who had come in and interviewed me as a talent. My coach had told me, "Well, I don't know if you got a chance to play in the NFL, I don't know. My information is you may be drafted in the 10th or 12th or 15th round." They had like 20 rounds back then. About that time we got down to like pick No. 15, 16, 17 or something and the phone rings in the room. They're talking on the phone and they hand me the phone and they say, "It's the coach from the Los Angeles Rams." My first thought – honest to God, I am not exaggerating – I put my hand over the receiver and I said, "Who's the coach?" I thought there were only like 4 or 5 teams in the league because on television that's all I saw! I am holding the phone and I answer, "Hello Coach" and he says, "Youngblood, Tommy Prothro here. We're gonna draft you!"
Q: What is your favorite memory while playing for the Rams organization?
Youngblood: There were so many great moments over the 14 years, but one that I have always reflected back on is the acceptance from both Merlin and Deacon in my first 3 or 4 weeks and into the preseason games. Both Merlin and Deacon said to me that week and put their arm around me like a big brother and said, "Kid, you can play. But we gotta teach you how to play." I looked at both of them in the eye and said, "Trust me, I'm all ears."
Q: Is there a game you would like to go back and replay?
Youngblood: I look back on the Super Bowl. We came so close in the 70s. In 1979 when we finally got through Dallas and Minnesota and we went to Tampa for the NFC Championship and we shut them out, that put us into Super Bowl XIV. Playing in that game, I can remember being within a step of Terry Bradshaw as he threw the ball to John Stallworth down the left sideline. I mean I literally hollered at Terry and he stepped up just a heartbeat before and then I hit him just as he released the ball. Both of us turned and looked and John went and caught that ball and went on to beat us. We had 6 minutes left in the ball game. I could have made a difference. If I'd of had that one more step, I could have made a difference in that ball game.
Q: What was your pregame ritual back in the day?
Youngblood: I had a compulsive thing about my shoestrings – they had to be straight. It had to be stitched up just right. I would tie that knot off two or three times because it wouldn't go right the first time. It wasn't superstition, it was discipline. It's what we had done for years.
Q: In your opinion, who is the best player you ever played with?
Youngblood: Well for sure, Eric Dickerson. It was privileged to sit on the sidelines and sit on the practice field watching him literally dance. I can remember watching him run '49 no-gap' and '48 no-gap' time and time and time again. If he'd been a girl, he'd of been a ballerina.
Q: What was your favorite city to visit when you were playing?
Youngblood: New Orleans – we played at Tulane Stadium at first and then to the Dome. I hated that Dome because I'd start out a game at a weight of 250 and at the end of the ball game I'd be 230 pounds. I'd lose 20 pounds of water, it was incredible. I think it was because of the atmosphere inside that Dome. It didn't happen in any other place. Also, what I love about New Orleans was you could eat your way down Bourbon Street.
Q: Which former teammates do you want to have dinner with tonight?
Youngblood: I would bring Rich Saul, Phil Olsen, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones and Bert Jones. I would bring those guys back for a fun night.
Q: Looking back on your 14-year career, what advice would you give rookie Jack Youngblood?
Youngblood: Try and be better than what you are. I never wanted to be in a situation where my opponent or the offensive lineman or tight end in front of me to be in better condition than I was or stronger than I was. I don't think I ever got to the peak where I was satisfied with where I was. I always felt as though there was another 50-yard sprint or another hill to run or another workout that I should have done or another film I should have watched or that I didn't see something that I should have seen and because I didn't see it, I didn't make the play.
Q: If there is a piece of advice you can give the team this season, what would that be?
Youngblood: This is a long run but you have to take it one play at a time. Every play, every snap, until the end of the season. That will get you to the next level where you want to be.