"I'm not enchanted with upper-body strength," he says. "Some of those muscle guys who play center, guys who can push over buildings, well, you know one thing all that strength is good for? It's good for this..." and his fingers squeeze an imaginary middle guard's jersey.
Kansas City Offensive Line Coach Joe Spencer says, "I don't think I'll ever coach another guy like Jack. He didn't miss a game in 10 years. You can't get him off the field. Last year he sprained his ankle so badly that on Monday he couldn't get a shoe on it. He was on crutches. By Tuesday he was down to one crutch. By Wednesday he was using a cane. On Thursday he walked through the practice. On Friday he took some snaps. On Sunday he played. I've never seen a guy come off crutches and play like that."
Pain has been Rudnay's constant companion in another, deeper sense. Anyone who has ever come out of the locker room with him after a home game can understand it, because this is the time he devotes to what his daughter, Wendy, calls "our special people." He buys 50 tickets a game for children who are crippled or retarded or terminally ill, and he spends time with them afterward. "That's the most important thing, really," he says. "The game doesn't mean that much. It's the visit. And it's going back. These kids can see through a handshake and a goodby. It's coming back to see them again and again that's important."
Usually, Rudnay will bring some teammates out with him to meet the kids. He says he'll remind the players about it in the locker room, but generally "only five or 10 show up. No hard feelings. I'm not a missionary. It's not my place to dictate to anybody."
Seven years ago the Chiefs were playing in Denver, and some of the players went to Craig Hospital to visit Pat Bickle, a Kansas City high school player who had been paralyzed in a game. A doctor told Rudnay, "There's another Kansas City boy here. Would you like to see him?" So Rudnay and Podolak dropped in to see Jeff Walker.
"He'd been in a car accident," Rudnay says. "Both his parents had been killed, and he'd been left paralyzed from the waist down. He was all by himself, and it struck me as kind of cruel. Here's a 14-year-old kid who lost practically everything in one shot—his parents, the use of his legs—and because he wasn't a football player, no one made a fuss over him."
Through the years Rudnay became very close to the boy. He'd take him to Arrowhead Stadium and teach him how to use the weights; he'd bring him home to spend time with his family. A commitment began to grow—not to the big, well-funded charities, but to individuals, to the forgotten.
"One year Polly was trying to find a charity group that would bring kids to a party the wives' club was giving," Rudnay says. "We called all around to all the big charities. They were all booked up. Then I found one. It was listed just under the name of one person, Marie Lucas. I went down to see her. She was an old black woman who took care of severely retarded children. Some were completely bedridden; none were easy. All the children had parents. Sometimes they'd send toys, but they were no good. Some parents didn't realize how badly retarded the children were. Marie Lucas had one lady working for her full time; they were the staff. No one knew about this place. No one ever went. I've never known a parent to visit there."
Rudnay's friends say that his commitment is part of the overall picture of the man. High hilarity, great compassion; the whole spectrum thrown into focus by an overriding sense of honesty.
"You know," Podolak says, "you mention Jack Rudnay to NFL people, and they'll say, 'Oh, yeah, that funny guy on the Chiefs.' But there are dozens of families who don't know that side of him at all. All they know about are the hundreds of hours he has spent with their children."