One of the key members of the revitalized unit is Nunley, who is 6'2", 230 and looks about as hard as a softboiled egg, but he hits like Dick Butkus and roams as widely as Tommy Nobis. His teammates call him "Fudge Hammer." "Because he's so sweet and hits so hard," says Willard.
Nunley is also known for his gung-ho attitude. "He is the most positive man I've ever met," says John Brodie, the 35-year-old quarterback who is having the best season of his life in his 14th year as a pro. "The big difference between this club and the other 49er teams I have played with is the terrific morale, and Nunley has had a lot to do with that, I think."
"He'll call any defense in the book and he's a gambler," says Nolan. "My only problem with him is holding him down. And he has one great quality. If he makes a mistake—and he makes some—he forgets it immediately. He doesn't brood or sulk about it."
Nunley himself has another explanation for the club's new zest. "When I came here four years ago, there was a real sharp division on the team. There was a nucleus of oldtimers and then there were the young players, and the two groups just didn't get along. Now most of the old ones have gone and the young guys are really keyed up."
He looked across the dressing room at a big, powerful man who had thrown his head back to laugh at something another player had said. "Now we got guys like him," Nunley said.
He was speaking of rookie Defensive End Cedrick Hardman. In the Ram game Hardman sacked Los Angeles Quarterback Roman Gabriel twice; Brodie wasn't dumped once by the Fearsome Foursome. Deacon Jones, who is considered the best defensive end in the game, was often double-teamed, and when he wasn't, Casimir Banaszek, a tight end Nolan made into an offensive tackle, fended Jones off.
After the game, Hardman, attired in a white double-breasted suit and a flowered ascot, went to the Ram dressing room to talk to Jones. In a story in a Los Angeles paper earlier in the week, Jones was quoted as saying that while Hardman showed some potential, he was still just a kid and no threat to Jones' eminence at their position.
At 6'3" and 250, Hardman is a bit smaller than Jones, but he braced the Ram veteran coolly. He asked Jones if the quotes were accurate. "I might have said something like that," Jones allowed. "Maybe not just exactly that, but something near it."
"You may be the best now, Deacon," Hardman said, "but you better be ready to retire in a couple more years."
In the dressing room at Redwood City, Hardman laughed, thinking of the confrontation. "He's the best now, I guess," he said. "But I can be just as good as I want to be and I'm going to be the best."