By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
So, I was lucky enough to have some former football players out to my house a couple of weeks ago for lunch. It was my dad, Ray Jacobs, of course, and his pals from the Miami Dolphins, Larry Czonka and Bobby Neff, and their significant others.
It was pretty casual, steaks on the grill and banana pudding, and everyone seemed to have a lovely time, and the guys told stories that had us rolling, some about action on the field, most of what took place off the field.
I grew up hearing the Zonk stories because my dad was hunting and drinking buddies with him for years, so I was eager to meet him. He turned out to be very sweet, funny and self-deprecating.
I did have to ask him, however, if all the stories were true — shooting a shark and sinking the boat? wrecking the airboat? shooting the snake next to his friend? and he simply said they were, owning all his previous history with a certain degree of quiet pride.
Bobby Neff, who has often been described by my dad as one of the most determined and motivated players he’s ever known, was modest and a pleasure to have over.
Neff lives over near Waco, Zonk is a part-time Floridian and a part-time Alaskan.
I also got a chance to hear stories about my dad that I’d never heard before, which intrigued me. My dad’s a pretty loveable guy, but I didn’t know him as an adult in his wilder days when he played football. When I was a tiny kid, he was that tall guy who spent the first part of every week bruised and limping, and the rest of the time joking around and pulling pranks.
Although it was a private lunch, and everything was off-the-record, I think they’ll forgive me if I tell just one story:
When Czonka showed up to play that first season, he was already considered one of the most talented players of his generation and was a first-round draft pick for the Dolphins. My dad has been a first-round draft pick himself years earlier, and has already been on the team when Zonk showed up, which made Zonk a rookie by my dad’s standards.
The rule was that rookies had to stand on a chair and sing in the locker room, but Zonk had missed out on the training camp initiation because he’d been playing in the All-Stars game, so he assumed he wouldn’t have to.
When he did arrive, though, the other players were for upholding tradition, despite the new star in their midst. Zonk basically challenged anyone on the team to make him sing. At which point, Zonk said my dad stood up, about 300 pounds of solid muscle and cotton-field-bred meanness, and Zonk immediately said “OK, I know the ‘Battle of New Orleans’ and ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ which one do you want?”
Janet Jacobs is City Editor of the Corsicana Daily Sun. Her column appears on Saturdays. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “soundoff” to this column? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com