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From player to owner to fictional quarterback, Burt Reynolds had a strong football connection


Actor Burt Reynold’s star is seen on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Reynolds died today at 82 years old.

Sarah Morris

In the 1970s, Burt Reynolds was that guy. He just was. Cool, funny. Mustachioed. And he just didn’t give a crap. About anything.

One of the most searing images of my youth came while watching The Longest Yard at the drive-in with my sister, my mom, and a friend (it was the second feature after King Kong), and for the first time ever hearing someone (other than my friends and me) use the “F” word. (I just realized I probably had a fairly boring youth.)

Bigger than life is what Burt Reynolds was. Every movie he made was must-see, and he had a strong connection to football. From playing at Florida State to playing Paul Crewe in the original (and better) Longest Yard to playing Coach Nate Scarborough in the remake to partially owning a USFL team, Reynolds had a clear and strong connection to football.

John Bassett, as explained in Jeff Pearlman’s new book, Football for a Buck, recruited Reynolds to become a part owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits. Sure, Reynolds had only five percent of the equity (with a purchase price of zero dollars and zero cents). But he made a significant impact by helping to hype the team.

Reynolds arrived on the field via stagecoach, he showed up for a press conferences announcing the team’s name with bottles of bubbly and a mini-harem, and he gave all players a gold-dipped belt buckle and team jackets including the inscription “With Love, Burt Reynolds” on the inside.

He’s now gone, passed away at the age of 82. The last memorable reference to him in this space came in February 2017, when it was suggested that, after winning the Super Bowl that capped the year of his bogus #Deflategate suspension, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should retrieve the game ball, jam it into Commissioner Roger Goodell’s midsection, and say, “Stick this in your trophy case.”