SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
November 03, 1980
As Jack Rudnay goes, so also go the Kansas City Chiefs. Ol' No. 58 is their inspiration and gagster—and the city's quiet humanitarian
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November 03, 1980

Front And Center

As Jack Rudnay goes, so also go the Kansas City Chiefs. Ol' No. 58 is their inspiration and gagster—and the city's quiet humanitarian

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"All it is," Rudnay said, "is a giant tube of toothpaste with a one-inch firecracker in the mouth of it. You light it, toss it in the room and boom! I'll tell you, you can still walk in that room today and it smells like someone just brushed his teeth."

"It's very tough to get even with Jack," Ed Podolak says. "He had something called Rudnay's Law: whatever you do unto me, I shall do unto you—worse."

We are in Rudnay's house on Lake Lotawana, Mo., 25 miles south of Arrowhead Stadium. The area is rich in history. Oldtimers will tell you stories about Cole Younger and the James boys, whose descendants still live in the area. The Lone Jack Civil War Trail runs 400 yards from Rudnay's house. A short path from the house leads down to the lake.

On this May morning the Rudnay household is learning to play in pain. Jack is stretching out his sore back, which plagued him for most of the '79 season. Polly Rudnay, slim and vivacious, is a little stiff from her last session with the weights, a miniprogram she has started. Buck, the 8-year-old English pointer, is suffering from a recent attack by a roving gang of three German shepherds. Mandy, the Rudnays' 8-year-old daughter, nicknamed Bonesy, seems O.K., but her 6-year-old sister, Wendy, or Spike, has picked up another bump. Her left ear is bandaged; there is a black-and-blue mark on each arm and another one on her forehead; the left knee of her jeans is torn; and there are scratches on her nose. Wendy is the kind of person who has a tough time with stationary objects. They keep bumping into her.

"I hope I never have to take her to the hospital," Polly Rudnay says, "because they'll take one look at her and they'll never let me leave. They'll call the police. They'll say, 'Here's a classic case of child abuse.' "

Rudnay, his stretching exercises complete, walks over to a glass tank and studies his fish. The house is very water-oriented. There is a functional stone well in the living room—that's right, a real well. "The man who had the house before us enlarged the room," Rudnay says, "and there was this well right outside. There was nothing to do except include it in the addition."

Inside the fish tank is a 2½-pound bass, named Mr. Bass. He has a bruised tail, a memento of the time the cat knocked the tank over. Other people have goldfish, Rudnay has a bass. He studies it. He feeds it crawfish from an adjoining tank. Rudnay's bass-fishing exploits are legendary; MacArthur Lane, a former Chief running back, talks of Rudnay's "almost magical" ability to catch fish.

It's no mystery. Rudnay produces a journal containing the jottings of two years, much of it bass lore. A drive through the countryside with him is often interrupted while he checks the terrain—"See that? Hedgerows. Bass love to feed there"—and makes entries in the journal, just in case the area is flooded someday.

Later, we are at Arrowhead, and Rudnay starts through his weightlifting program—four sets of everything, top speed, the only real loading up coming on the hip-press machine; he lies on a three-quarter incline and pushes great masses of weight with his feet. He does 10 repetitions of 800 pounds. He has done 10 reps of 880. The club record, held by Tom Condon, a guard, is 900—but that was a one-shot. Rudnay is opposed to sheer bulk lifting, to packing bunches of muscle on your body. But he wants his legs to stay strong.

His game is speed and finesse, which is the normal way to operate when you play at 240 pounds. The crab block, the head fake, the scramble block, trickery and misdirection—all the skills of a bygone era—are his weapons, and at this game no one is better. "Sometimes, Jack seems to play by the seat of his pants," Wiggin has said. Rudnay considers it a point of honor not to indulge in holding.

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