Mention the name Jack Youngblood to any football fan and there's a good chance they will remember Youngblood as the man who played in the Super Bowl with a broken leg, and they would be correct. Youngblood, who played in 201 consecutive games with the Los Angeles Rams from 1970 through 1984, was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He also starred in college for the Florida Gators, earning All American honors in 1970. Youngblood has remained close to the Florida program and he talked about his career and his life after his football career ended.
"I've been blessed more than any man could ask for," said Youngblood. "I had a wonderful career in football. I was named to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame, but this year I was inducted into the Florida Ring of Honor and that was just as special as the other two."
Youngblood laughed when he was asked to tell about playing in Super Bowl XIV for the Rams with a broken leg. The Rams lost that game to the Pittsburgh Steelers and it was Youngblood's only Super Bowl appearance.
"I knew you were going to ask about that," he said with a chuckle. "I actually broke my fibula 3 weeks earlier in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. At halftime I was told my leg was broken and the doctor told me I was done. I just couldn't accept that. I'd waited too long to get to a Super Bowl and I knew my career was winding down. I didn't have many chances left so I just went back out and played on it and did the best I could. We won that game and I went out the following week when we beat Tampa Bay to get to the big one. There was no way I was going to miss playing against the Steelers. We had two weeks before the game so I actually had a three-week recovery time. We gave them all they could handle and had the lead with six minutes to go, but we ended up falling short."
Youngblood, who resides in Florida, maintains a close relationship with Urban Meyer and the Florida program. He also professed a deep respect for Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
"I love Urban Meyer, " he explained. "I've gotten to know Urban through his time here and I've been around him enough to know that he's a great coach. The kids love him and he's a coach I could have played for. That's the highest praise I can give a coach.'
"I've never had the pleasure of meeting Jim Tressel, but we have a mutual friend that just thinks the world of him. As a matter of fact, all of my Ohio friends just rave about the man and I trust their judgment. I look forward to meeting him some day."
As a member of the Professional Hall of Fame, Youngblood makes an annual trip to Canton, Ohio to be involved in the enshrinement of the current class of players. It's apparent that he has a special fondness for Ohio.
"I love coming to Ohio," he continued. "No question about it. I've met some of my dearest friends in the world in Canton. The relationships I've made will be with me the rest of my life. It's an incredible experience being in the Hall and Ohio holds a special place in my heart."
Youngblood also talked about his thoughts on the BCS championship game and what he views as the keys to a Florida victory.
"I'll be looking for consistency on both sides of the football," he explained. "As always, I look for this game to be decided by turnovers and by the special teams. There will be about four or five major plays that will determine the outcome. Most people talk about each coach making adjustments, but I look to see which coach can create something the other one can't handle. These coaches are both so good and so bright that it will be fun to see which one can come up with a game plan that takes the other by surprise.'
"I think the best player on the field is Troy Smith, without question. He's a great athlete that has been very well coached. Winning the Heisman Trophy was well deserved. I think he has a very bright future playing on Sundays."
When pressed to pick a winner Youngblood stayed true to his roots and called for the Gators to pull the upset.
"This will be a great game and I think a very close game," he stressed. "In my heart I believe the Gators will find a way to win the game. The Gators will have to play consistent football for four full quarters. They have to play with intensity and stay focused the entire game. This has been a problem this year at times. They cannot afford to have a lull in their effort at all. If they do Ohio State will take advantage of them and hit them with big plays because they are a quick strike team and they're very talented. I am really looking forward to seeing all this talent on both teams play on Monday night."
Finally Youngblood, the only Florida Gator in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was asked to name his greatest accomplishment in football.
"I can't point to one specific moment," he explained. "I guess I'd have to say I'm very proud that people still remember me and consider me a tough guy who played the game the way it should be played. That means everything to me."
Youngblood has also made an impression on the city of Canton, Ohio. Mark Milano has worked for the Hall of Fame for 22 years on the transportation committee. He spoke of his affection for Jack Youngblood.
"I've met a lot of Hall of Fame members," Milano said. "Names like Howie Long, John Elway , Marcus Allen and Jim Kelly, to name a few, but make no mistake Jack Youngblood is one of the most genuine human beings I've ever met. The amazing thing about jack is that he's a better person than he was a football player. I'm very grateful for his friendship. He might be a Gator at heart, but once a year he becomes a Buckeye and it doesn't get any better than that. Jack and his wife Barb will always have a second home in Canton as long as I'm alive."