It was 26 years ago when I was 29 years old. I was asked to travel to Round Rock, Texas for a week-long management meeting. I had just accepted a job as VP of Sales & Marketing for Westinghouse Electric Motor company for Canada, and this was my first trip to the head office in the USA to meet the rest of the management team.
When I arrived in Round Rock just prior to Thanksgiving I met a very tall “man’s man” named Jeff Urczyk with whom I instantly bonded. There was something about this dude that I liked; I couldn’t put my finger on it but I wanted to be around him.
On day three of the meetings he invited me to join him and travel to watch the Dallas Cowboys on the Thanksgiving weekend. I had to ask myself, “Who has an extra ticket for one of the biggest games of the year?” It just didn’t make sense.
So I started digging to find out who was this Jeff Urczyk, and with a few probing question I found out he was not only bigger than life physically, but he was an ex pro football player. Later that night, over beers, he shared an incredible story …
When he was in college he was a starting offensive tackle for Georgia Tech, in one of the biggest games of the year: Notre Dame in South Bend. This was his last game of his college season, and he was expected to be drafted in the first couple round only weeks after this game.
For this of you who have seen the movie “Rudy” you may recall the last game of the Fighting Irish’s season that year. As the movie laid out, Rudy was put into the game to play defense at the very end of the game. He broke through the O line and sacked the quarterback.
This was one of the most heartfelt movies of all time.
What you likely don’t know (I sure did not) was that the star Jeff Urczyk was on that O line the whole game, until the play where he blew out his knee, just prior to Rudy’s miraculous sack of the QB. Jeff was scheduled to go in the early rounds when he blew out his knee and had to be removed from the game.
He end up being drafted in the 16th round to the Seattle Seahawks in 1976.
Rudy took the opportunity to blow through the O line right where Jeff should’ve been. When that movie aired years ago and on every big anniversary, news agencies all ask Jeff for an interview. They want to ask his thoughts about that play, and of course being the “class man” that he is, he always declines to comment.
But it was fascinating to hear him tell me in no uncertain terms “I would’ve put that little fucker on his ass.”
Jeff did take me to the Thanksgiving game in Dallas where we got to go upstairs into the players lounge after the game with all the wives and relatives. And eventually I got introduced to some great players like Moose Johnson, but the highlight of that whole week was getting to meet and become friends with Mr. Jeff Urczyk.