In a span of five seasons, Jack Pardee has advanced from all-pro linebacker to the head-coaching job of the Washington Redskins.
His friends, and there are legions of them, will tell you that through it all, his successful battle with cancer in 1965, the hard and uncertain times in the World Football League in 1974, the struggle and ultimate triumphs in three years as head coach of the Chicago Bears, Pardee never changed.
"I have always felt that Jack is the most stable man I've ever been around," said Fred O'Connor, who served as an assistant coach with Pardee the last four years. "He is totally unflappable, a very loyal guy, a very sensitive guy who understands people.
"He listens to people, he gets input from his players and his coaches. He delegates authority, and he is not afraid to try something new. He's not compulsive about anything, and he keeps things in perspective. He knows exactly what his priorities are, and I can tell you that football is important to him, but he's no fanatic."
And so, Edward Bennett Williams has hired himself a coach who will attend mass every morning before he shows up at Redskin Park; a man who often rode his bicycle to practice sessions at the Chicago training facility a few blocks from his home; a fellow who said unequivocally yesterday, "No, I'm going to have a chauffeur."
In Chicago, his five children often attended practices and his wife Phyllis used to bring him a sandwich for lunch.
But make no mistake, O'Connor went on, "Jack is also all business. He'll work as many hours as it takes to get the job done. If it means staying until midnight, he'll stay until midnight."
That is the way Merlin Olsen, the former all-pro defensive tackle and a Pardee teammate in Los Angeles, remembers the Redskins' new head coach.
"I don't think Jack was as gifted physically as some of the people who played linebacker in this league," Olsen said yesterday. "But Jack was one of the most dedicated and determined athletes I've ever played with."
"For awhile, I remember he had one of the toughest jobs on the team. He was the backup signal caller to Maxie Baughan. But it didn't matter. He still had to study and prepare for it, just in case and he spent hundreds of hours looking at film, working with the coaches. There's no credit for that kind of work, but he did it and he never complained.
"One of the most impressive things I ever remember was when Jack came back from that cancer operation and got himself ready to play. We all thought it would take him a year to get ready and come back. It only took him a couple of months, and that's after radical surgery. He was out in the offseason every day, working to build himself back. It was his determination that got him back, nothing else."
Pardee showed many of those same attributes the year after he left the Redskins and took over as head coach of the Florida Blazers. During a season of total turmoil - franchise shifts, bouncing checks, no checks and horrid practice facilities, Pardee still got his team into the WFL championship game.
"In Florida, it was like we were on an island there all by ourselves," "O'Connor recalled. "We had no owners, we had no money, and all we had was a few footballs, some equipment and players. Jack kept it all together.
"He led by example. His message to the players was simple. He just told everybody that as long as we kept together and kept on winning, someday, somehow there might be a market for our services. It was Jack being practical again. He just wanted to try and make the best out of a terrible situation, and the players believed in him. Hell, we all believed in him."
And so, too, did the Bears. At 38, he was the youngest head coach in the NFL when he was hired on Dec. 31, 1974. He helped the Bears progress from 4-10 in 1975 to 7-7 in 1976 and 9-5 regular-season finish in 1977, after a 3-5 start.
"Jack never changed, not when we were losing that first year, not when we were struggling earlier this year," said wide receiver Steve Schubert, who signed on as a free agent in 1975. "He was always calm, and he was nevery really what you would describe as emotional.
He doesn't yell or scream in the locker room, he's not that type. He prepares you thoroughly during the week, and leaves you pretty much alone to prepare for the game mentally yourself.
"When we were 3-5 this year, all he ever said was "Don't look ahead," just keep preparing week by week." One day he came in and said every game is really like the Super Bowl for us now, but let's just concentrate on what we have to do and not worry about anything else."
"I loved playing for the guy. He doesn't believe in embarrassing his players. I never heard him scream at a player in a practice or a meeting. When he criticizes you, he tells you man-to-man, face-to-face, and it's more along the lines of 'this is what we think you're doing wrong.' He'd help you improve yourself."