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STILL GOING STRONG
Terry Todd
November 17, 1980
All-Pro at 38, Houston's Bob Young reigns as the NFL's elder weightsman
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November 17, 1980

Still Going Strong

All-Pro at 38, Houston's Bob Young reigns as the NFL's elder weightsman

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Perhaps Young's failure to pass the St. Louis medical was more fiscal than physical. One team told Young that if a club wanted to take a chance on him, he didn't have to worry about the examination. Leon Gray, the All-Pro ,tackle who plays next to Young in Houston, says, "My guess is the Cardinal owners figured that since Bob was almost 38 years old, since they'd depreciated him to the limit and since they were paying him three or four times what they could get a young guard for, those back X rays began to look real serious. I imagine they thought more about saving themselves some money than they did about how Bob busted butt for them all those years. Thank the Lord for their bad judgment."

Banks, who was switched from center, at which position he was All-Pro for four seasons, to guard by the Cardinals this year, but now is on injured reserve with a knee condition, agrees that the Cardinal management was wrong to trade Young. "They really blew it," he says, "an unbelievably bad move. I don't care if Bob's 38 or 48, the man can play. Look at him in Houston. I wish we still had him, and not just because I'd be back at center, but because he was so much fun to watch, especially when he played against a really great tackle, like Randy White. White's as good a tackle as there is, and Bob used to handle him so easy it was embarrassing."

All the Cardinals remember Young's hitting in the big games. Dierdorf, the well-spoken, 6'3", 290-pound perennial All-Pro offensive tackle who played with Young for eight years, was reminiscing at a party recently after the Cardinals had won their first game of the season. "I'm sort of a connoisseur of great hits," he said. "I collect them in my mind. Not just good hits, but savage hits, stunners. If I had to list the best five I've ever seen in a game or on film, one of Bob's would be first on that list." Leaning back, Dierdorf smiled and added, "And one of Bob's would also be second, third, fourth and fifth. Film days will never be the same again."

During Young's years with the Cardinals, he was me subject of much conversation among his teammates, each of whom seems to have a favorite story about his eating or his wild, non-stop dancing or his almost superhuman physical power. And if his depredations so far as an Oiler are any indication, the Astrodome should soon prove to be a hothouse for stories of Young's outsized exploits. Gray recalls hearing a loud grunt to his right during the Cleveland game the second week of the season, Young's first game with the Oilers: "I looked over to where Bob had knocked his man back and that man be groaning and carrying on, and I say, 'Bob, what you do to that man?' and he just grin a little and show those big teeth. Man, he fires me up. I think, Lord, that man's 38 years old, but he plays like a kid. A smart kid. It's like playing with John Hannah [Gray's former teammate in New England] again. Me and that big studhorse gonna play us some football!"

"Bob is a pleasure to coach," says Joe Bugel, who handles the offensive line for Houston. "He's such a professional. He didn't walk in here like a peacock, even though he was an All-Pro. He walked in like a man and he listened and he'd ask questions if he didn't understand something. But even with his reputation I didn't think he could learn our system as fast as he did. I didn't think anyone could."

Houston Coach Bum Phillips, who, with the acquisition of Young, added even more luster to his reputation as a studhorsetrader, what with Kenny Stabler and Leon Gray already Oilers (and Dave Casper soon to become an Oiler), is pleased by Young's performance. "Young has played like an All-Pro for the past few years and he's playing like an All-Pro for us," Phillips says. "I like the way he carries himself and the way he sees so far into a play. And his quickness is unbelievable. He comes off the ball as fast as anyone I've ever seen. His first day in practice we ran a play where he was supposed to pull and lead the play to the right. Well, he's got such quick feet that he almost ran over Stabler. Kenny had to adjust to Bob's reactions, but you know, I don't think he minded. To look at Bob you just wouldn't think he could move like he does."

About Young's size, Phillips says, "All that muscle helps Bob in two ways. For one thing, that tremendous muscle structure helps protect him from injuries. I saw him take an accidental lick in the first game that would have crippled some men, but it just sprained his knee a little. And for another, he can use that muscle and really pop somebody. He hit an old boy that first game so hard it was a shame. I just can't believe St. Louis let a man like that get away. Maybe they'll send us Dierdorf when he gets a couple years older. The way Bob's going now, I think he'll play at least another season or two."

One person who seems particularly sanguine about such a prospect is Stabler, who recently explained what Young had meant to the team. As he talked, he often glanced at Young, who was in his jockstrap, taping his arms and wrists. Stabler would smile and shake his head as Young bent and twisted, the huge straps of muscle standing out across his hips and thighs and back, rising and falling under his vast expanse of skin like whales at play in a still lagoon.

"My God, would you look at that," Stabler observed. "Imagine a man six-one and weighing 285 being able to move like he can. He hurts people. He forces the defense to forget certain of their options. That left side of ours is a dangerous unit. Carl Mauck and Leon and now Bob. All that experience. I feel like I have a year to get the ball away. But what I like most about Young is his style, what kind of man he is. I know he's played hurt out there but he never says a thing about it. He just comes back to the huddle and gets ready for the next play. That kind of a man lends a lot more to his team than just his ability. That front office at St. Louis must be taking the wrong medicine."

Later that day Young played a fine game against the Bengals. In the fourth quarter, leading a sweep around left tackle, he took Linebacker Jim LeClair not only out of the play but also out of the game. This rare ability to explode against an opponent is perhaps Young's most singular talent—a talent which, in his opinion, results from his genetic heritage as well as from his work with the weights. He avoids jogging because he believes it diminishes his power, laughingly arguing that anything over 40 yards is a distance event. He does run, though, favoring short sprints to complement his work with the weights.

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