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View Full Version : Chiefs 'I was never diagnosed with a concussion, but ...' (Jack Rudnay artcile)


38yrsfan
07-02-2010, 04:06 PM
http://www.suntimes.com/sports/telander/2456570,CST-SPT-7telanderbrain02.article

I can hear Jack Rudnay swearing, and it alarms me. The yelling is not loud, nor is it constant. But it has an edge to it. ''[Bleep]er!'' I wait a moment, and there is quiet. I'm sitting on a chair in the guest bedroom at Rudnay's farm 160 miles southeast of Kansas City, Mo., near the tiny town of Versailles. There are just the two of us here, other than his six horses, the pet turtle in the tank and the multitudinous largemouth bass in his 18-acre lake.

Jack is divorced and his two daughters are grown. He drives to Kansas City several times a week to run his veterinary supply manufacturing business and to spend time with his girlfriend, Linda. But he is alone often here on the farm, in these wooded hills with the grassy fields and the half-mile-long gravel driveway that, as he puts it, ''Nobody drives down by mistake.''
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Jack Rudnay was a 6-3, 235 pound center and defensive tackle who started 30 straight games for Northwestern.
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<!-- BlogBurst ContentStart -->I hear him again. ''[Bleep]!''

I walk out of the bedroom and look into the large, glassed, high-ceiling room that holds the one-lane swimming pool that is now as much a part of Rudnay's world as breathing.
He is on his back in the center of the pool, in baggy black trunks, his body lean and pale, dogpaddling fitfully against the constant current. Rudnay's eyes are closed, his breathing labored, his jaw set in defiance.
''[Bleep]er!'' he hisses.
I back out quietly. A few minutes later, when he has dried off and re-entered the main house, I ask Rudnay how his swim was.
''Good,'' he says. ''Very good.''
Jack Rudnay, 62, is a battered man. He will never complain. Never. That's not how you become one of the greatest linemen in Northwestern history and a 13-year NFL veteran -- all of them with the Kansas City Chiefs -- four of those years as the AFC starting center in the Pro Bowl.

You've probably seen Rudnay in that oft-run Silver Bullet beer commercial, the one with Chiefs coach Hank Stram prancing on the Super Bowl IV sideline. Rudnay's the bearded guy in the business suit behind Stram. Jack fractured three vertebrae in the 1969 College All-Star Game, and was on injured reserve for that 1970 Super Bowl championship, his rookie year.

The back injury was just the start; or rather, it was a continuation of the thread of wounds and rehabilitation and denial that was already being stitched into the fabric of his being. A working-class kid from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, outside Cleveland, Rudnay wrestled in the state high school tourney with two separated shoulders, and never had or expected toys as a child. Recruited mostly by Ivy League schools, he arrived at Northwestern in the late summer of 1965, driven by a high school pal in a rusting Pontiac Tempest. The pal dropped Rudnay off outside Elder Hall on Sheridan Road, turned around and drove back to Cleveland.

''There were happy families everywhere,'' recalls Rudnay, whose own father died when Jack was 2. ''I had three cardboard boxes, and I'm standing there alone. It was like a foreign country.''

When he tells a story such as this -- simply and succinctly -- there is such passion welded into his words that Rudnay often will get teary-eyed and his voice will crack. Sometimes the tears literally stream down his face, such as when he described the joy of being asked two years ago by Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald to address the Wildcats football team on the field. ''It was beautiful for me,'' he said. We were in his car when he told me that story, on the long drive from the Kansas City Airport, and at first I thought he might have allergies or dust in his eyes. Eventually, he wiped the tears from his face and we drove on.

But Rudnay never weeps over physical pain. He has a specially built hot tub on the deck next to his pool, with high-pressure jets that are customized for his wrists, hips and back. And the 19-foot constant-current pool is the gentlest way he can exercise. Indeed, it's basically the only way.

On bad days, Jack is halfway crippled, overwhelmed by nerve pain in his arms and spine and throbbing osteoarthritis pain in just about every other joint. One knee is sort of OK, but that is compromised by the four surgeries to replace a damaged right hip joint.

The first surgery wasn't a success, and the hip kept slipping out of its socket. Ten times that happened. Rudnay learned how to get the dislocated joint back in place by using rope or sheets, wrapping them around his foot and having several people hold his torso while one yanked the coil as hard as possible.

Dr. Victoria Brander, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University and a partner in the Northwestern Orthopedic Institute, says she marvels at the former football players she sees in her arthritis practice.

''Matched to their non-athlete peers, the level of arthritis for them is much greater,'' she says. ''Yet their perception of pain and disability is much less. These old warriors. They refuse to give in.'' She sighs, looking at me suspiciously. ''As if it's giving in.''

Pat Harrington, the captain of our Northwestern team in 1969, and an arthritically challenged hobbler himself, calls Rudnay's farmhouse set-up ''Aqua Land.'' A better term might be ''Water World,'' for without the H2O and the pain pills and the nerve pills he takes when he starts to get mean and intolerant, Rudnay would live in something closer to hell.

''I never was diagnosed with a concussion,'' he says. ''But I went into the Green Bay huddle a couple of times.''

The warrior code meant Rudnay continued on, out of duty. Indeed, he played in 144 straight NFL games after 30 straight with Northwestern. ''I felt it was a sacred obligation with my teammates and my opponents,'' he says, sounding philosophical. He reads constantly and he meditates, and he says, ''I think I'm a Buddhist, spiritually, at least. I'm alone a lot, and the universe is my church.''

But he also practiced in the church of hurt, becoming a high priest there. At Northwestern, he was a 6-3, 235-pound dynamo at defensive tackle and center, and though he got up to 280 pounds in the NFL, he would often drop to as low as 220 by the end of the season. It was his battery that never faltered.

''I wanted the ability to have an on-off switch, and believe me, you didn't want to see me on Sunday,'' he says. ''I was a professional killer.''
During the weekend that I am with Rudnay, he gets a call from former lineman Ed White, a friend of his who played 17 years with the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers. It is interesting, because what they discuss is the passing of a beloved assistant coach and a ''brain study'' in California they would like to be involved in because there is word that some of the herbal additives and powders being talked about can restore or enhance mental capacity.

Like all of us around 60, Rudnay isn't sure what his brain should be like.
''I guess my short-term memory has been slightly affected [by head blows],'' he says. ''But how do you know? I always forgot things.''
He had looked at me as we slowly walked toward his lake in the morning.
''You got a hitch in your giddy-up there, brother,'' he said, concerned.
Yes, I'm joint-damaged like the others, though a lot of it is from pick-up basketball, if it matters. My right shoulder has never been good since a tackle junior year. Some of my fingers are messed up. We all chose to do what we did, anyway. How many concussions did I have in football? One? Two? What's the joke answer: None, that I remember! And a firestorm last winter in my spinal cord staggers me yet. Transverse myelitis they call it. From a flu shot? From football? Both arms and one leg were paralyzed.

Scary as hell.

Rudnay quotes Carlos Castaneda to me, ''We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.''
Rudnay's the guy who has dislocated every finger on both hands and dislocated both big toes so badly that they touched the top of each foot. Sometimes he has to turn on the ignition of his car with his left hand because the right hand won't work. His blocking technique was to punch with both hands after centering the ball -- ''maybe a million times,'' he says. This destroyed his wrists. And once he busted the little finger on his right hand so badly that the bone protruded from the skin. He taped the pinky to his ring finger.

''The team doctor said, 'You are through.' I said, 'Doc, you don't understand. I'm kicking this guy's ass!'''

He went back in, and blood from his pinky spattered the white pants of startled quarterback Mike Livingston and tailback Ed Podolak on each snap.

So it goes.

''People get pain and suffering confused,'' Rudnay says.

We do.

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mikey23545
07-02-2010, 04:55 PM
Sometimes, when we all sit around bitching about how overpaid NFL players are (and we all do it), we probably should take a moment to reread this article...

FAX
07-02-2010, 06:22 PM
Stud. It's, frankly, amazing what these old guys were determined to deal with in order to play professional football. A lot of today's players would faint in the huddle from the sight of the blood and protruding bones. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

FAX

mikey23545
07-02-2010, 06:36 PM
''I never was diagnosed with a concussion,'' he says. ''But I went into the Green Bay huddle a couple of times.'' LMAO

''I think I'm a Buddhist, spiritually, at least. I'm alone a lot, and the universe is my church.''

''We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.''

''The team doctor said, 'You are through.' I said, 'Doc, you don't understand. I'm kicking this guy's ass!''' LMAO

''People get pain and suffering confused,'' Rudnay says.


I bet he is one interesting SOB to have a beer or two with...

big nasty kcnut
07-02-2010, 06:56 PM
Yep he a bad ass. Like me sometime i'm so sore from working i can't move out of bed sometime the cerebal palsy act up and i just want to lay in bed.

Gonzo
07-02-2010, 07:07 PM
Yep he a bad ass. Like me sometime i'm so sore from working i can't move out of bed sometime the cerebal palsy act up and i just want to lay in bed.

Yep, dudes from that era were badasses.

Oh nut, btw...
If you're ever up here, I'm buying.
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gblowfish
07-02-2010, 08:02 PM
Let me tell you about Jack Rudnay.

He had a very tough start with the Chiefs. He broke some bones in his back before his Rookie Season even got started. Back then they played a College All Star Game in Chicago, with the best college players vs. the NFL champs. Rudnay got hurt in practice before that game, and had to sit out the whole Super Bowl year for the Chiefs. Then, after that season was over. E.J. Holub retired, and the kid rookie took over at center. Holub was a tough act to follow. Holub had seven or eight knee surgeries, and was legendary for playing with pain. Rudnay turned out to be just as tough. He was an all-pro center four times on some very lousy Chiefs teams. And he was small. Usually he only weighed about 225 or 230, doing battle with defensive tackles who had 50 or 60 pounds on him. Dude was a pit bull. Just ferocious, all heart. One of my favorite Chiefs players ever. And he was a smart guy. Back in the 1960's Northwestern was like an Ivy League School. You had to be really smart to get in.

You wanna read a great Jack Rudnay story? Read this one from the SI Vault. I remember when this was first published. It's long, but a really great story:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1123916/index.htm

Jack Rudnay is one of my all time favorite Chiefs. Truly a great guy, and we could use more like him.

mikey23545
07-02-2010, 09:37 PM
Just an excerpt from the article gblowfish is talking about:

Rudnay doesn't travel along prescribed routes. Pretension is his great enemy, and in his desire to do things his own way he makes some people uncomfortable. Years ago he heard the cry of helpless children, the terminally ill, the retarded, and he committed himself to them. He spends hours in their hospitals; he buys up blocks of tickets for them for every game and he brings them into the locker room afterward. But organized publicity campaigns for charity and organized fund-raising leave him cold.

"I often wonder," Rudnay says, "how much of that is genuine compassion and how much is merely self-serving."

For the last two seasons Rudnay's Chief teammates have nominated him for the Justice Byron (Whizzer) White Award, which the NFL's Players Association gives annually to a player for doing charitable work. But Rudnay never filled out any of the forms.

"Frankly, the idea of polishing your own apple doesn't appeal to me," he says. "Filling out something like that not only is insulting to the people you work with, but...." He starts again. He's used to being misunderstood. "Look, I don't question the motives and integrity of the people who give that award. It's just a personal thing with me."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 goodbye. 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."

milkman
07-02-2010, 09:54 PM
That David Jaynes story is classic.

Midway Chief
07-02-2010, 10:38 PM
I am very lucky to know Jack because of his veterinary equipment business for the last 18 years and have had the pleasure of sitting down with him over a few beers on several occasions. Screw Tim Tebow, I am truely a better person for spending time with Jack. He is just as caring as he is tough. The Special Olympics is one cause that means so much to him and he dedicates a ton of time to that cause. It holds such a huge place in his heart and he gets choked up just talking about the atheletes. He does it for the love of the kids and never craves any special attention for his efforts.

Dave Lane
07-02-2010, 11:08 PM
I am very lucky to know Jack because of his veterinary equipment business for the last 18 years and have had the pleasure of sitting down with him over a few beers on several occasions. Screw Tim Tebow, I am truely a better person for spending time with Jack. He is just as caring as he is tough. The Special Olympics is one cause that means so much to him and he dedicates a ton of time to that cause. It holds such a huge place in his heart and he gets choked up just talking about the atheletes. He does it for the love of the kids and never craves any special attention for his efforts.

In my mind that is the absolute definition of a hero.

ForeverChiefs58
07-02-2010, 11:42 PM
I use to date his daughter in HS. I didn't even know who he was then. They lived in lake lotawana in LS. Funny though, she told me if I hurt her she'd beat my ass. She was a fighter man. Took her to MU, said goodbye. Looked kinda like gloria estefan (sp?)Pretty girl with an awesome heart to match, great family.

ForeverChiefs58
07-02-2010, 11:44 PM
I am very lucky to know Jack because of his veterinary equipment business for the last 18 years and have had the pleasure of sitting down with him over a few beers on several occasions. Screw Tim Tebow, I am truely a better person for spending time with Jack. He is just as caring as he is tough. The Special Olympics is one cause that means so much to him and he dedicates a ton of time to that cause. It holds such a huge place in his heart and he gets choked up just talking about the atheletes. He does it for the love of the kids and never craves any special attention for his efforts.

He has more class in that mangled little pinky, than most athlete's whole bodies. Very cool story.

Bob Dole
07-02-2010, 11:46 PM
Sometimes, when we all sit around bitching about how overpaid NFL players are (and we all do it), we probably should take a moment to reread this article...

These badass, tough MF, honest-to-God decent human beings who for the most popart played for the love of the game were not overpaid. It's the self-serving, sit-out-with-a-hangnail, "look at my bling while I drink Patron" bitches of today we're bitching about.

mikey23545
07-02-2010, 11:49 PM
These badass, tough MF, honest-to-God decent human beings who for the most popart played for the love of the game were not overpaid. It's the self-serving, sit-out-with-a-hangnail, "look at my bling while I drink Patron" bitches of today we're bitching about.

Good distinction.

ForeverChiefs58
07-02-2010, 11:49 PM
These badass, tough MF, honest-to-God decent human beings who for the most popart played for the love of the game were not overpaid. It's the self-serving, sit-out-with-a-hangnail, "look at my bling while I drink Patron" bitches of today we're bitching about.

Don't forget the "I know a signed a deal for 50 million, but that was so last year, and I had a pretty good year so, I want a new contract for more now or I will sit out and ruin my team chemistry!"

ChiefsCountry
07-03-2010, 12:31 AM
My friend's family supplies hay to his farm.