Selected: 1st Round, No. 20 overall, 1971 NFL Draft
Tenure with Rams: 1971-1984
Jersey Retired: Yes
Elected to the Pro-Football Hall of Fame: 2001
The Rams have good luck with the Gators. Herbert Jackson Youngblood III was born on 1/26/1950 in Jacksonville Florida. [Nobody dared to call him Herbert.] He was destined to be Gator, and a Ram. He is considered one of the greatest Gators and Rams of all time. They call him Mr. Ram and the Duke of L.A. He is a member of the ring of honor for both clubs.
Jack was elected to the Pro-Bowl 7 times. He was elected first-team All-Pro 5 times. He was the NFL defensive lineman of the year in 1975. He was the NFL defensive player of the year in both 1975 and 1976. He was elected to the 1970s All-Decade team. He was elected by his fellow Rams as the team MVP 3 times: 1975, 1976, and 1979. He was the Rams' perennial defensive captain. His induction into the Hall of Fame finally came in the year 2001. A 16 year wait made it a bit overdue
So why is he so low on this list? He was a first-round draft choice. Much was expected of him. He delivered, big time. However, he was not the same sort of draft-boomer that late-rounders like Deacon Jones and Tom Fears were.
Jack Youngblood was a classic tweener in an era before there were tweeners. At 6-4 and 247 pounds, Jack was smaller than a lot of defensive ends in his day. He was bigger than a lot of linebackers, even in our era. He was also stronger than most defensive ends, and faster than most linebackers. This made him a classic strength/speed/size nightmare mismatch opponent for most offensive tackles. His speed and his motor were what gave his opponents fits. This was true in both the passing game and the running game.
Although Jack had a stellar reputation as a pass rusher, he was equally stout against the run. That's saying an awful lot. Jack scored 151 sacks in his career. This would place him in 4th place on the all-time leader board, behind fellow Ram Kevin Greene... but... Deacon Jones would probably be first on that list bumping them both down. Suffering the same problem as Deacon Jones, sacks were not an officially kept statistic throughout much of Jack Youngblood's career. This is why he does not show up on the all-time sack leader board.
When you see footage of Jack sprinting around the corner sacking QBs like Roger Staubach, Jim Hart, Jim Plunkett, and Ken Stabler, you can't help but be impressed by his amazing speed. Today, you rarely see a defensive end come off the edge that fast and that clean. In many bits of footage, Jack Youngblood almost looks like Lawrence Taylor, sprinting into the backfield as an unblocked free runner. The difference is that Jack Youngblood always had a tackle in his face.
The only player I've ever seen who was similar to Jack was the one and only Charles Haley. As good as Charles was, and he should be in the Hall of Fame, he could not compare to Jack in the leadership department.
I still have hopes that young Chris Long will be our new Jack Youngblood. I am sure the organization does also.
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the great Dan Dierdorf was asked, several times, to ID the toughest end he ever had to block. Without hesitating, he answered "Jack Youngblood". He said Youngblood gave him fits because of his strength, speed and elusiveness. Jack was also a practitioner of psychological warfare. Dierdorf recounted many times how Jack would go into a falsetto voice and start screaming at Cardinal QB Jim Hart "JIMMIE! JIMME! I'M COMMING TO GET YOU JIMME!" The real target was Dierdorf. Jack had one of his greatest days in a 1975 playoff win versus the Cardinals, playing against this fellow Hall of Famer.
Of course, Jack is best known for playing on fractured left fibula during the 1979 playoffs. His leg was fractured during the course of a playoff victory over the Cowboys in Dallas. They taped up his leg in the locker room and returned to action. He was instrumental in both that victory and the NFC Championship the next week. He played at a high level in Super Bowl XIV against the Steelers. He even played in the Pro-Bowl a week later. For this, NFL Films recently elected his 1979-80 playoff-run as the #1 gutsiest performance in NFL history. You can see the video here:
The Gator Ring of Honor is a pretty exclusive club. Only Danny Wueffle, Emmitt Smith, Jack Youngblood, Steve Spurrier and Wilber Marshall have been inducted. Soon, a fellow Jacksonville kid named Tim Tebow will be joining him in the Gator ring of honor. A great Ram defensive end named Kevin Carter was never elected to this club. Alas, would it were that Tebow might have joined Jack Youngblood in the Rams' ring of honor also.