The next day, Youngblood had a great afternoon against Chicago. The Rams won 21-14, and Youngblood was a prominent figure, recording a sack but, more important, standing his ground, defending rather than attacking. In the dressing room the writers; as always, crowded around him. Robinson walked up. "Nice job, Jack," he said. Youngblood looked about 10 years younger. He told the writers, "It's always nice to hear your boss man say you did a nice job."
Over to the side. Guard Dennis Harrah was talking about the team's old man. "To me, he's the epitome of what a professional football player is all about," Harrah said. "He's the hardest-working guy on the team, probably in the NFL. He's an outstanding person and a natural leader. He truly is Number One. He could be called Mr. Football."
After dressing, Youngblood walked out of the locker room, the last to leave, as always. Upstairs the Rams were having a postgame party, and Diane was waiting for him. It would be the first time he had seen her in over a week. Walking through the empty tunnels of Anaheim Stadium, Youngblood admitted that he had felt a lot of pressure going into the Bears game. If he had played poorly, his position might have been up for grabs. It was another challenge, met and won.
Upstairs, he walked into the party and spotted Diane. The first thing she said was that she had stopped by the house earlier that day and noticed that the yard was a mess and that one of his dogs. Jet, looked like he needed a bath.
In the ensuing days the Rams coaching staff made a decision. Jeter would be used to spell Nose Tackle Charles DeJurnett. Youngblood had proved he could handle the 3-4. The Rams split their next four games and are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC's Western Division.
For her part, Diane Youngblood was reassessing her marriage. A friend whose husband had also played pro football told her, "You never have them for yourself when they're playing. Football gives them all of what they need. You have to wait until they quit to find out that they need you." Last month Diane decided to move back into the house. "We've tried being apart," she said. "It's better to be together."