Jack Reynolds is a very funny guy.
He laughs a lot for a former pro football player. He has not played a serious football game since seven years ago, when he retired after 15 seasons as a feared inside linebacker.
All the while, he never stopped having fun. When the fun stopped, Reynolds stopped playing. These days, Reynolds and his wife maintain permanent tans and live comfortably in a modest beach home on the Bahamian island of San Salvador (population 600).
"I'm always hacking up, sawing up, beating up something. I like to stay busy," Reynolds said Wednesday while signing autographs at Sports Unlimited on U.S. 19 in Clearwater in advance of the Pro Football Legends Bowl on Saturday at the Florida Suncoast Dome.
Reynolds, who earned as much as $300,000 in one season when he played for the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, is known as the neighborhood Mr. Fix-It. He loves to work on cars. He acquired the nickname "Hacksaw" after he cut a 1953 Chevy in two while attending the University of Tennessee.
Reynolds, unlike most athletes whose playing days can be seen only in the rear-view mirror, is a real live character. His idea of getting psyched for a football game consisted of attending Sunday-morning church service in full football gear.
Reynolds played in two Super Bowls _ XIV with the Rams and XVI with the 49ers. On both occasions, Reynolds distributed handouts to reporters describing the origin of his nickname.
"Reporters were asking the same questions over and over. I decided to beat them to the punch," said Reynolds, now 44. "The league didn't want me to do it, but I thought it would be fun. I tried to make it light and lively."
Reynolds was one of the lucky ones. Not only did he play in two Super Bowls, he never suffered a serious injury. When he left the game, in 1984, there was no looking back on his part. Actually, there was nothing left for him to second-guess.
"I wasn't the fastest guy in the world, so I had to get every edge I could," said Reynolds, who claims to be about 13 pounds over his playing weight of 230.
A squat 6-footer, Reynolds was asked to compare himself to the football player of the 1990s. On speed alone, Reynolds said, he never would have made it in the NFL.
Reynolds was a football player before scouting combines came to prominence, back when being mean and tough and strong was almost as important as being fast. When the Rams made Reynolds their No. 1 pick in 1970, he would have been lucky to break five-flat in the 40-yard dash.
"I used to study a lot of film and look for tips," Reynolds said. "If a team only ran a certain play for a particular player, you knew when to look for that guy. How do you think I was able to last 15 years?"
Reynolds always was proving himself. He never got along with Rams management and nearly came to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a trade in 1977. The Rams released him in 1981.
He signed with the 49ers and helped them beat his former team twice that season.
"I just shoved it to them," Reynolds said with obvious delight. "We beat them the second time in Anaheim on my birthday. Those are the kind of things you never forget."
Reynolds warned that he has not played football since last year's Legends Game; he said he would try not to fumble a gift football a fan asked him to autograph. When another fan said she would look for him at the game, he said he'd be the "one that's out of shape." And probably, he is. Reynolds also never stopped smiling. Let the fun begin.
What: Pro Football Legends Bowl.
When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Florida Suncoast Dome.
Tickets: $8, $10, $12. Each ticket good for admission to game and post-game concert with Chubby Checker and the Legends of Rock and Roll.