Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jock Straps and Theme Songs (Episode 2)

Welcome back to our mini-series on popular TV actors who first made careers for themselves in the NFL.  Today we learn about the star of a popular ‘80s drama, another member of the “Fearsome Foursome” and one of the greatest NFL players of all time.


Fred Dryer

In the summer of 1987, my parents and I were staying at the Marriott hotel in the Century City area of Los Angeles.  Scattered about the spacious lobby were large bird cages that each housed a colorful bird—macaws, cockatoos, green parrots. I was a huge fan of Hunter (though at 11 years old I was probably too young to be allowed to watch it), and could barely contain my excitement when I saw Fred Dryer in the lobby.  He had his face right up to one of those cages, quietly talking to the bird inside.  Even though I didn’t get a good look at his face, I knew instantly that it was him—you’d have to be blind not to recognize the 6’6” frame and pair of large Ray Ban sunglasses that were a trademark of his character, Detective Sergeant Rick Hunter. 


It was his imposing stature that sustained him through a successful NFL career as a defensive end; it also, along with my crippling shyness, kept me from approaching him in the Marriott lobby.  After an outstanding career at San Diego State University, Dryer was drafted by the New York Giants in the first round of the 1969 draft.  He won the starting job as a rookie and held onto it for the three years he played for the Giants, leading the team in quarterback sacks in each of those three years.  He joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1972 and had earned the starting job by the next season.  Dryer became a pass rush specialist and finished his career with 102 sacks—not too shabby for a 12-year/176-game span. 


Fred also has the distinction for holding the NFL record of most safeties in a single game.  On October 21, 1973, against the Green Bay Packers, he recorded two.  Both came from sacks in the fourth quarter:  the first when he chased down Green Bay QB Scott Hunter (“Hunter,” huh?) and the second when he dragged down backup quarterback Jim Del Gaizo.  He earned the AP’s selection of NFL Defensive Player of the Week.  Dryer retired after the 1981 season.


Well before his leading role in Hunter, Dryer was considered for the lead role of Sam Malone in the soon-to-be hit sitcom Cheers.  Luckily for primetime drama fans, that iconic role was played by Ted Danson.  He later appeared in four episodes of Cheers as sportscaster Dave Richards.  In 1984, Fred got his big break when he was cast in the lead role of Rick Hunter.  The show lasted for seven seasons, with Dryer taking over as executive producer for the last two seasons, and Det. Sgt. Rick Hunter lives on in syndication.  I still love the Hunter theme song:

In the mid-90’s, Dryer got another opportunity to star in his own series with Land’s End.  He played Mike Land, a former L.A. cop who relocates to Cabo San Lucas after a drug lord he worked for months to bring down was acquitted. That series lasted for 22 episodes.  Currently, Fred lives in L.A. and owns his own production company, Fred Dryer Productions; he and his son-in-law have also developed film projects through their joint venture, Dryer/Padgett Films.


Remaining TV Filmography:

·    Accidentally on Purpose: “Edward,” 12/14/09
·    Justice League: voice of “Sgt. Rock,” 11/9/02
·    Relic Hunter: “Randall Fox,” 10/30/00
·   Diagnosis Murder: three episodes as “Police Chief Masters,” September 1997 and January 1998
·    Hart to Hart: “Boyd Miller,” 3/6/84
·    The Rousters: “Will Clayton,” 10/1/83
·    CHiPs: “Lt. John LeGarre,” 5/23/82
·    Lou Grant: “Mike Hauser,” 4/6/81


Rosey Grier

Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, one of twelve children, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia in 1932, the same year his namesake, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was elected president. After playing defensive tackle at Penn State University, Grier was drafted as the 31st overall pick of the 1955 draft by the New York Giants.  He spent eight seasons with the Giants and during that time won the NFL Championship in 1956, earned Pro Bowl honors twice and was named an All-Pro defensive tackle six times.  In 1963 he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams where he formed the “Fearsome Foursome” along with Merlin Olsen (remember him?), Deacon Jones and Lamar Lundy.  He had a successful career with the Rams until he suffered a career-ending tear to his Achilles tendon in 1967.


Grier was one of the first football players to make the leap from the gridiron to television, and he actually got started while he was still playing: he was cast as part of a security team in the hit show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1964. The year after his retirement, Rosey landed a recurring role as Gabe Cooper in the series Daniel Boone and appeared in sixteen episodes.  Rosey’s talent wasn’t just in acting, however.  In 1970 he hosted The Rosey Grier Show, which was a weekly talk show focusing on community issues in Los Angeles. He was a familiar face on talk and variety shows (like Kraft Music Hall, above), often showing off his vocal talents.  In fact, he also recorded several singles; only one, a 1968 tribute to Robert Kennedy, appeared on the popular charts.


Speaking of Robert Kennedy, Grier (along with Paper Lion author George Plimpton) played a role in subduing Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan.  He was serving as bodyguard to Robert Kennedy’s wife, Ethel, the night of the assassination.  Along with Olympic decathlete Rafer Johnson, Grier held down Sirhan and fought off members of the crowd who tried to attack Kennedy’s killer.  Today, at the age of 80, Rosey Grier is an influential community activist and travels the U.S. as an inspirational speaker.


Remaining TV Filmography: 

·    The Jeffersons: “Powerhouse Watson,” 11/20/83
·    Concrete Cowboys: “Momo,” 2/28/81
·    The Love Boat: “Virgil Plummer,” 12/1/79
·   Roots: The Next Generations: “Big Slew Johnson,” 2/21/79
·    Flying High: “Tarkanian,” 10/20/78
·    CHiPs: “Car Killer,” 10/13/77
·    Kojak: “Salathiel Harms,” two episodes, 1/25/76 and 12/5/76
·    Movin’ On: “Fats”, 1/30/75 and as “Benjy” in five episodes, September 1975-February 1976
·    McMillan & Wife: “Bobo Johnson,” 1/27/74
·    Make Room for Granddaddy: “Rosey Robbins,” in six episodes, October 1970-March 1971
·    I Dream of Jeannie: “Sam,” 10/7/68
·    The Wild Wild West: “Tiny Jon,” 2/2/68
·    The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: “Jason,” 3/8/65


Other Notable NFL TV Stars


Terry Bradshaw

Currently an analyst for Fox Sports and co-host of Fox NFL Sunday, Terry Bradshaw is a Hall of Fame quarterback and four-time Super Bowl Champion.  The Louisiana native attended Louisiana Tech and was drafted first overall in the 1970 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played his entire career for the Steelers and was part of the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.  Although the Steelers do not officially retire jersey numbers, no one has worn Bradshaw’s #12 jersey since he retired in 1983.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.  In addition to his football broadcasting work, Bradshaw has made several TV commercials and appeared in several films, starting with the Burt Reynolds film Hooper in 1978.  His most recent role was the father of Matthew McConaughey’s character in Failure to Launch—complete with a nude scene!

TV Filmography: 

·    8 Simple Rules: “Steve Smith,” 10/15/02
·    Malcolm in the Middle: “Coach Clarence,” two episodes, 2/3/02
·    King of the Hill: voice of “Preston Rogers,” 11/26/00
·    Blossom: “Coach Morton,”5/23/94
·    The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.:  “Colonel March,” two episodes, May 13 and 20, 1994

Jim Brown

Considered to be the greatest running back of all time, if not the greatest football player ever, Jim Brown was, along with Fred Williamson, one of the feature actors in the boom of the “Blaxploitation” films of the 1970s.  His first major role, though, was in the World War II film The Dirty Dozen (above). After a successful multi-sport career at Syracuse University, Brown was the first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1956 draft. He spent his entire nine-year career in Cleveland and set numerous records, including most rushing touchdowns, career and single-season rushing yards and all-purpose yards—and he never missed a game. He reportedly made the decision to retire when Cleveland owner Art Modell told him that he had to choose between football and acting. 

Some of his records have been broken, but others still stand, including number of seasons leading the NFL in all-purpose yards (five) and the number of games with at least four touchdowns (six); he is still the only rusher in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game over his career.  He earned Pro Bowl selections in each of his nine seasons, and led the league in rushing for eight seasons.  Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, his first year of eligibility.


TV Filmography: 

·    Soul Food: “Willie White,” three episodes, 2/25/04, 3/10/04 and 4/7/04
·    Lady Blue: “Stoker,” 4/15/85
·    Cover Up: “Calvin Tyler,” 10/8/84
·    Knight Rider: “C.J. Jackson,” 9/3/84
·    T.J. Hooker: “Frank Barnett,” 2/19/83 and “Detective Jim Cody,” 11/10/84
·    CHiPs: “Romo” in two episodes, 9/22/79 and “John Casey,” 1/16/83
·    Police Story: “Pete Gerard,” 2/22/77
·    I Spy: “Tommy,” 4/12/67


Bob Golic

Attended Notre Dame and was a two-time All-American in both football and wrestling. Drafted by New England Patriots as a linebacker in the second round of the 1979 draft, he stayed with the Patriots for three seasons and went on to play for the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Raiders; earned Pro Bowl honors three times, all with the Browns. Younger brother Mike Golic was an NFL defensive lineman and is now co-host of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning.

TV Filmography:

·    Most significant role was as resident advisor Michael Rogers in Saved by the Bell: The College Years for 19 episodes in 1993 and 1994
·    Charlie Grace: “Bukowski,” 9/21/95
·    Good Advice: “S.C.,” 4/30/93
·    Coach: “Eddie Garrett,” 2/24/93


John Matuszak

Attended University of Tampa where he played defensive end and was drafted first overall in the 1973 draft by the Houston Oilers. He tried to play for the Houston Texans of the World Football League at the same time but was served with a restraining order during his first game with the Texans; the move irked the Oilers and they traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs.  Matuszak played most of his career for the Oakland Raiders, where he won two Super Bowls.  He was notorious for his drug use and bad behavior, which did not endear him to his teammates or Raiders owner Al Davis.  After football he became a successful actor, with his first major role in the 1979 movie North Dallas Forty; he’s probably best known for playing “Sloth” (below) in The Goonies He made many guest appearances on television shows, and his most significant TV role was as George Grinsky in the police drama Hollywood Beat, which aired for 14 episodes in 1985. Matuszak died in 1989 of heart failure, caused by a drug overdose, at the age of 38.


Remaining TV Filmography:

·    M*A*S*H*:  “Cpl. Elmo Hitalski,” 3/1/82
·    Trapper John, M.D.:  “Joe McGurski,” 4/18/82
·    Matt Houston:  “Harold,” 11/25/83
·    The Dukes of Hazzard:  “Stoney,” 10/19/84
·    Silver Spoons:  “Elmer,” 11/15/84
·    The Fall Guy:  “Dwayne,” 1/2/85
·    Stir Crazy:  “Grossberger,” 9/18/85
·    Tall Tales & Legends:  “Mountain Man,” 2/8/86
·    Hunter:  “Lincoln,” 3/11/86
·    Fathers and Sons:  “Mad Dog,” 5/4/86
·    The A-Team:  “Actor,” 10/17/86
·    Amen:  “Elmo the Handyman,” 11/15/86
·    Miami Vice:  “Lascoe,” 4/3/87
·    The Charmings: “Rock,” 11/12/87
·    Aaron’s Way (Merlin Olsen’s series): “Purque,” two episodes in March 1988
·    T and T:  “Rubberhead,” 6/6/88
·    Perfect Strangers:  “Cobra,” 1/13/89
·    The Adventures of Superboy:  “Android,” 3/18/89
·    Heartbeat:  “Warnick,” 3/30/89

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