It is about noon on Sunday outside the hotel headquarters of the San Francisco 49ers. A cab driver is waiting patiently for a fare. He looks up. Opening the side door is a man, dressed in a full 49er uniform, pads and all.
"Take me to the Silverdome," he says. "Fast."
The cabbie laughs.
Some people will try anything to get into the Super Bowl, he probably thinks to himself.
But this won't be any crazy fan trying to fake his way into the game. It will be Jack (Hacksaw) Reynolds, the sweet and sour cream in the homogenized world of pro football.
His coach, Bill Walsh, calls him "the Pete Rose of football," for his dedication to the game. Hacksaw (he never calls himself Jack) doesn't know how to react to such accolades, even though he and Rose went to the same high school and they both always used head-first slides when playing baseball. He'd much rather admit that he knows his teammates sometimes think "I'm not playing with a full deck."
He has given them reason to form that opinion. Why else would someone ruin 13 hacksaw blades to saw a car in half, just because his team lost a football game? Why else would someone roll down a steep hill while curled up in the inside of an inner tube? Why else would someone try to push rocks up a hill, just for the fun of it?
Why else would Hacksaw change into his uniform inside his hotel room, then ride to away games in a cab, just so he can have enough time to complete a pregame ritual he has followed for his 12 wild years in the league?
Ask Hacksaw what he thinks of San Francisco, the city, and he'll stare at you with those haunting, deep eyes, blink and respond in his usual gruff tone.
"Don't know," he says. "Don't spend any time downtown. I go from my apartment to the practice facility and stay all day and go home. I do that even on my day off."
Probably no one in the NFL spends more time during the season working at his trade. He often arrives at the 49ers' training site before anyone else, early enough to make the first pot of coffee. When he isn't in meetings or on the practice field, he is watching films. If anyone ventures near him, he'll yank him inside the film room, too, so he can point out special revelations.
His teammates don't think he ever tosses anything away. His locker is overflowing with odds and ends, including his own specially made pencil box in which he carries a minimum of 100 sharpened pencils. He says for every page of a game plan prepared by the coaches, he adds another two or three pages.
When he last played in a Super Bowl, with Los Angeles in 1979, the press (not a favorite Hacksaw subject) overwhelmed him with requests to explain how he really got his nickname. So this time, he typed out the entire story, had 150 copies made and handed one out whenever the question came up.
"The Hacksaw Story," it says, "By Jack Reynolds." It explains that after his team, Tennessee, lost to Mississippi in 1969, he was so upset he decided he would cut an old, motorless 1953 Chevy in half to make a trailer for a new jeep he had just purchased. He started on Sunday and finished on Monday. It took 13 blades and eight hours. The next day, someone stole both halves.
Reynolds is building a house on San Salvador Island in Cockburntown in the Bahamas. There is no road from the house to the beach. He says in the off-season he will cut a road through the forest to the beach. Even if it takes all summer.
"I'm funny," he said. "I have to finish what I start. It's something inside me that drives me."
But first, Reynolds has to take care of some football business. He is the emotional heart of the 49ers' surprising defense, a 34-year-old, too-slow, too-weak wild man who led the squad in tackles after being released by the Rams, who thought his contract demands exceeded his deteriorating ability.
He says he won't pound any lockers before taking the field against the Bengals Sunday. "I don't want to get hurt doing that," he said. "And I don't want to hurt the lockers." But he admits he could do something bizarre.
"Different guys have different ways of letting off pressure," he said. "I know people think I'm a wild man. It's just the way I am."
The one thing Reynolds doesn't do well is make predictions. Before the season, he told fellow linebacker Craig Puki that the 49ers "would be lucky to win four games. Things seemed that disorganized."
A prediction for Sunday?
"I'm out of the prediction business," he grumbled. "But win or lose, I'm not sawing any car in half. They're too expensive these days."