20: Tom Mack. In my youth “Right Guard” was always a deodorant and “Left Guard” was always Tom Mack. He was our anchor baby, a Michigan man so bright George Allen played him as NFL infant–and Allen generally hated any player under 35. Mack never missed a game in 184 starts, made 11 Pro Bowls, the Hall of Fame and STILL hasn’t moved on a bogus penalty that cost the Rams the 1974 NFC championship game in Minnesota.
18: Eddie Meador. It was one thing for Nolan Cromwell to wear No. 21 because he lived up to the name and the position. Rankman just about flipped, though, when the Rams of St. Louis issued Lawrence Phillips uniform No. 21. It was almost like giving No. 4 on the Yankees to Jack the Ripper. There is only one “21” to some of us: Eddie Meador. He had the best crew-cut this side of Johnny Unitas and held down the defensive back end in the 1960s while putting up Hall of Fame numbers: 46 interceptions, 18 fumble recoveries, 10 blocked kicks. Maybe some day the Hall will recognize these numbers.
18: Willie “Flipper” Anderson. Rankman wasn’t alive in 1951 when Rams’ quarterback Norm Van Brocklin threw for an NFL-record 554 yards against the New York Football Giants. Given today’s rules prohibiting defensive backs from doing just about everything, it’s incredible Van Brocklin’s record still stands. Same goes for the single-game receiving record of 336 yards. Rankman WAS there for that one, Nov. 26, 1989, in New Orleans. You could win a bar bet with the trivia question: Who holds the NFL record for receiving yards in one game? Yep, it was Anderson. They called him “Flipper.” Rankman was so excited to be part of history he over-wrote the game story with prose that would have worked well in 1947 with a cigar in his mouth. “Three and half hours of blood-letting and hair pulling…” Really? Flipper had a much, much better night. Side note: quarterback Jim Everett threw for 454 yards that night and “only” fell 100 passing yards short of the franchise record.
17: Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds. Jack was everything you’d want in a Super Bowl champion linebacker. The shame is he won those Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers after a stellar 11-year career with the Rams that obviously left him wanting more. Didn’t we all want more? The nerve of a guy wanting to play with Joe Montana instead of Vince Ferragamo. Of course, as a kid, Jack had me at “Hacksaw,” the name he earned at Tennessee after he cut a car in half after a 38-0 loss to Mississippi. It reportedly took 13 saw blades to get the job done. Jack was never a dull boy.
16: Henry Ellard. He gets overshadowed in history because he was a low-key, Fresno kid who played in an organization that boasted Tom Fears, Elroy Hirsch and Jack Snow. Ellard, in his prime, was as good as anybody and one of the great route-runners in NFL history. He also suffered from sharing the same NFC West division with San Francisco stars Jerry Rice and John Taylor. Ellard finished his 11-year career with 13,777 receiving yards. Rankman covered Ellard’s best season, 1988, when he caught 86 passes for 1,414 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ellard was so graceful on his feet I once asked him if he was a dancer. This is as close to a direct quote as I can remember: Henry said “As a matter of fact, in the off-season I did take some valet lessons.” Thanks, Henry, here’s my ticket. I’m driving the 1983 Mazda Rx7…
Thursday Countdown: 15 to 11: