Because It Was Sunday: The Legend of Jack Youngblood, the official biography of one of the greatest players ever to wear a Florida Gators uniform, will officially be released on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Signed copies of the book are available for $19.99 by clicking here, but below is exclusive excerpt of the book provided to OGGOA by the publisher along with some notes and quotes about the publication from some big names.
The Gainesville Sun called him the Gators’ “tower of strength” – and the tower would be tested mightily in a 21-19 season opening win over Duke in Jacksonville. Early in the third, the Blue Devils on the 5-yard line, Youngblood made a game-changing play. On third-and-five, he crashed through the line and buried quarterback Leo Hart for a six-yard loss, forcing a field goal rather than giving up a sure seven. A couple of series later, following one of his typical booming kickoffs, he raced wildly down the field as the team’s “wedge-buster” and was abruptly crunched high and down low. In the aftermath, Youngblood stretched all of the ligaments and tendons in his right knee, “the whole patellar region like a limp fish,” he recalled.
His jersey draped around his neck, the wounded Gator limped to the sidelines with the help of trainers. Youngblood’s leg was splinted and he was immediately sent home to Gainesville in a car, escorted by state highway patrol. The injury was so severe – the knee swung back and forth as if hanging by thread – that Florida’s team doctor told him on the spot that he would need an operation the next morning. In the days before arthroscopy, surgery was a major ordeal and, as such, potentially career killing. Further X-rays and examinations were scheduled and he was told to rest for the night before reporting to the doctor the next morning. Partly terrified and, like a caged animal, distressed… Youngblood stayed awake all night and mentally directed positive, healing energy toward the knee. He didn’t know what would happen. He just wanted to get better and play. The next day, as sure as rain, the doctor pronounced the leg a miracle. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing, it’s tightened back up — it’s not torn,” he said. As if inhabiting superhuman powers, Youngblood had, in his mind, willed his knee to heal to the point of not having to undergo surgery. The leg still in a splint, the expectation was that he would miss two to six weeks.
Miserable, Youngblood stood on the sidelines and intently watched every play of the Gators’ 34-13 demolition of Mississippi State the next week, a game in which Reaves and Durrance combined for four touchdowns to give Dickey a win in his first game back at his alma mater. Scouting that day for his old team was Lou Groza, the Cleveland Browns’ 240-pound offensive tackle and field goal kicker for 21 seasons. And the huge, brooding man dressed in a tee-shirt, slacks and sunglasses caught his spying eye, as he told a Gainesville Sun reporter, “That Youngblood is a big horse… too bad he got hurt,” as “The Toe” then scrawled on a notepad.
The following week, embarrassed that he couldn’t contribute, Youngblood stayed behind as thirteenth-ranked Florida traveled to Tuscaloosa. The Tide rolled all right, and buried the Gators with a 22-point barrage in the fourth quarter. Alabama’s attack totaled 266 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. Jack was out in a friend’s boat on Cowpin Lake, and listened to Otis Boggs describe the butt-kicking Bear Bryant gave his teammates. All-American tackle John Hannah opened gaping holes in the left side of the defensive line. In the final minutes, angry and convinced that he could have made a difference, Youngblood flung off his splint, put on a slalom ski, and jumped in the water, telling his shocked companions, who pleaded with him to stop, “If I can ski on it, I can play on it.” He went around the lake once or twice, got back in the boat, and declared, “I’ll be at practice come Monday.”
The Gainesville Sun wrote, “…bright note of practice week was the return to duty of Jack Youngblood, giant left defensive end… he’s the mainspring in the functioning of the defensive line, one which broke down and came apart in the Alabama game.” Team pride and, no question, their defensive captain’s inspiring determination carried the Gators to victories in the next three games. A splint-less Youngblood was ferocious and made key plays in his first game back, a 14-6 win over North Carolina State, in which he dropped quarterback Dennis Britt for a two-yard loss to halt a drive. “I knew everything would hinge on the last seven or eight games,” he said of his and the team’s fortune. “My coaches told me of my potential and, well, I did a lot of praying.” The Alabama game was the last time for the next 15 years that an injury prevented him from playing. It also proved to be the first glimpse of Youngblood’s ferocious need to compete — no matter the cost to his body or the pain he would endure.
QUOTES FROM THE BOOK
* “If a Martian landed in my backyard, knocked on my door and asked me ‘What’s a football player?’ I’d go get Jack Youngblood.” – JOHN MADDEN
* “I’d have to give Youngblood the vote as the best defensive player I ever competed against.” – ROGER STAUBACH
* “He played a whole game with a broken leg. I mean, think about that. How much of a badass was Jack Youngblood? I’ll tell you: He was a serious badass.” – JARED ALLEN
* “One regret I have about my career is that I didn’t play better for Jack Youngblood.” – PAT HADEN
* “Youngblood is by far the best defensive end I’ve ever faced and may be the best all-around end in football.” – DAN DIERDORF
* “Jack Youngblood, I’d want him on my team every day of the week, anytime. The man was a 100% guy and was wonderful with his teammates.” – JOE NAMATH
* “He was chiseled and quick as a cat, but I don’t think we realized how good he was. He went hard every down. He didn’t know any other way to play.” — GATOR GREAT JOHN REAVES
* “I’ve got to say that Youngblood was nice enough to pick me up every time he knocked my ass off.” – ARCHIE MANNING
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BOOK
* The story of Jack’s rise to football fame is full of incredible revelations including his challenging childhood that forced him to deal with manhood early on, after his father died on his 10th birthday. Additionally, Jack’s high school career is chronicled with accounts of how a scrawny 190-pound linebacker led his school to a state championship, and earned a scholarship to the University of Florida – the last one offered in 1967. We also find out in the book that Bill Parcells once declined to recruit him, telling Florida State he would never make it in college.
* From there, we are treated to inside the-huddle stories of his All-American career with the Gators, where he set SEC records and went on to be recognized in the College Football Hall of Fame. He was the first Gator to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with Emmitt Smith to follow.
* The many inspiring people that came into Jack’s life and defined him are featured including his legendary Sheriff grandfather, Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Jackie Slater, as well as respected rivals like Roger Staubach, Dan Dierdorf, Ron Yary, Ron Jaworski, Archie Manning and John Madden.
* Finally, readers get a very personal account of Jack’s 14-year career as a perennial All-Pro defensive end with the popular Rams (he was called the “John Wayne of football”). Fans of all ages remember his courageous performance in the 1979 Playoffs when he played in two games and a Super Bowl against the Steelers in the Rose Bowl with a broken leg. There is no surprise that NFL Network named his effort as its #1 Gutsiest Performance in NFL history.
* Other moments revealed include: his near-death experience when a man put a .357 magnum to his eye and pulled the trigger – but happened to be one of two empty chambers; the blood clot that nearly killed him; his triumphs and defeats; the Super Bowl against the heavily favored Steelers; and his graceful retirement.
* Jack also shares his thoughts on the current state of the game, and players such as Peyton Manning (he possesses the same “perfectionism” Jack claims) and the Vikings’ monster defensive end, Jared Allen (who is a mirror image of himself) among other issues and people.