Reynolds Still Seeking Perfection : If Something Doesn’t Work, He Goes Back to Drawing Board

Times Staff Writer

As in TV’s “The Naked City,” there are eight million stories in the Super Bowl, but only one player--San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker Jack (Hacksaw) Reynolds--has his printed for distribution.

Just as he did at Super Bowl XVI three years ago, Reynolds has had a stack of releases titled “The Hacksaw Story” (Or How I Got My Nickname), at his table during the two days of interviews here this week.

The story is told in one paragraph--one long paragraph--but it saves a lot of explaining:

“In 1969, when I was a senior at the University of Tennessee, we had already clinched the Southeastern Conference title but still had to play Ole Miss (where Archie Manning was the quarterback). If Tennessee won the game, we would have gone to the Sugar Bowl. The previous year, Tennessee had beaten Ole Miss, 31-0. Things went badly that day and Mississippi beat us, 38-0. I played a good game, but was really upset at the outcome. We had an old car (a ’53 Chevrolet with no motor) on top of a bluff above the school. We used to push it around with a guy’s Jeep and practice driving into things, like demolition derby. When I got back to school, I decided to cut that old Chevy in half to make a trailer for a new Jeep I had just purchased. It was a good outlet for my frustrations. I went to K mart and bought the cheapest hacksaw they had, along with 13 replacement blades. I cut through the entire frame and drive shaft, all the way through the car. I started on Sunday and finished Monday afternoon. It took me eight total hours. I broke all 13 blades. When I finished, I got one guy from the dorm, Ray Nettles, to witness it. The next day we took the rest of our friends from the dorm up the hill to see it, and when we got there both halves of the car were gone, with just the 13 broken blades lying on the ground. To this day, I don’t know what happened to that car!”


So now you will understand 49er Coach Bill Walsh when he says, as he did Thursday: “There’s nobody like Jack Reynolds, with his total consumption of football.

“We’ve discussed Jack becoming an assistant coach, last year and this year. He has other plans. He still wants to play.”

Walsh added: “He’d certainly expect a lot from his players.”

Reynolds is 37. Fifteen years ago, he was a first-round draft choice of the Rams, who in 1981 grew weary of a contract dispute. At 33, Reynolds wanted a guaranteed five-year agreement. The Rams released him and he was signed by the 49ers.

Walsh tried to retire him before the ’83 season, but Reynolds refused. Riki Ellison hopes Reynolds plays forever. He dreads the day Reynolds would become his coach.

Ellison, a lighthearted second-year pro from USC, is the 49ers’ other inside linebacker.

“One of us would be in a mental hospital in a week,” Ellison said. “He would definitely be demanding. We’d be watching film every night.”

Games are bad enough. Reynolds is virtually a coach in uniform.

“When I come to the sideline I get this chalkboard in my face,” Ellison said, laughing.

“Jack’s a hard guy to get close to. He’s the Scrooge of all time. We had a hard time getting along that first year, but once you get close to him he’ll help you out tremendously.

“Now we really work together, like father and son, I guess. He yells at me all the time. I think I’ve added a couple of gray hairs to his head.”

Young Mike Walter from Oregon backs up both players and replaces Reynolds in passing situations.

“He chases you around with that chalkboard sometimes,” Walter said. “Jack has a knowledge of the game from being in there, while the coaches have a knowledge as far as philosophy. Jack can sometimes relate it a little better than the coaches can.

“I don’t know if he’s an overly brilliant person. There probably are better football minds, but he works so hard at what he does, prepares himself so well. He watches tons of film.

“He’s always the first guy there in the morning, when they open the place up, and one of the last guys to leave.”

Walter doesn’t think Reynolds would be any different as a coach.

“I think he’d be the same guy. I couldn’t see him changing.”

Reynolds, however, didn’t want to discuss coaching.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “That’s not in my realm of thinking right now. I’m getting ready to play this football game.”

But he did explain his attitude about his job.

“The main thing is to win, and if I’m not on the field I want the guy out there to do the best possible job he can do. I’ll draw the play up and I’ll show him what it is.”

He is not reticent about making his points.

“Different people have to be talked at in different ways,” he said. “Sometimes you talk to Riki a lot louder than you talk to most people. It’s hard to get through sometimes.

“I’m probably harder on myself--harder than any coach could possibly be. I strive for perfection in what I do. The guys who have played longer are the guys who’ve been smart in playing and studying the game . . . really know how to deal with every situation.

“I’ve seen guys come up with great talent and great speed, but they can’t think or they don’t study and it doesn’t become second nature to them. They don’t play very long.

“For a guy to be really, really sharp, when you first come in the league, it takes about five years. One of the most important things to know is that you don’t know everything, and you can always learn something new.

“Once I started playing--starting--with the Rams back in ’73, I was pretty hard on myself. I probably demand more from myself than the coaches demand.”

For Reynolds, the game is all that matters. Asked what it would mean to collect a second Super Bowl ring Sunday, he said: “I don’t know. Nothin’.

“I’ve got my last one in a safe somewhere. I don’t wear it. It’s more for personal satisfaction. The way to show it, if you’re that type of guy, is to wear your ring all the time, and I’m not into that.”