While the Big Red offensive line of the 1970s gets all the glory, the front five of the 1960s Cardinals was just as good and may have been better. Bob DeMarco, Irv Goode, Ken Gray, Ernie McMillan, and Bob Reynolds combined for 19 Pro Bowls from 1961-1970.
The 6′-6, 265-pound Reynolds was the Cards second round draft choice in 1963 out of Bowling Green where he was a two-time all-conference selection. He started his first training camp on defense, but was moved to left tackle after a string of injuries on the offensive line.
Big Red line coach Ray Prochaska believed Reynolds had the tools to succeed on the offensive line.
“He seems to know what pass protection is about. He knows the footwork pretty well and knowing this is three-fourths of the task.”
Reynolds had another reason for the move to offense
“I didn’t feel I was good enough to be a defensive tackle,” he told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1970. “All the way up to pro ball I was always bigger than most players. I may have loafed. I had the tendency to take it easy. In college all I knew about defense was to overpower everybody.”
Reynolds told Meyers that he became convinced that mental preparation was the most important factor of playing on the offensive line.
“That is how you beat your opponent,” he said. “Better shape? No, you beat him because you’ve prepared yourself more than he has. Strength? No, you beat him because you prepared yourself more.”
Reynolds played in every game his rookie season and would become the full time starter at left tackle in 1964. He was a top flight blocker who had speed to get downfield. He played in three Pro Bowls and missed only 5 games while providing tremendous protection on the left side of the line during his nine seasons in St. Louis.
“He’s consistent, a good team man, a hard worker, a player with real ability, and a great attitude,” former Cards head coach Charley Winner said after Reynolds completed his best season in 1968.
“Bob Reynolds helps stabilize things as well as steady me,” quarterback Jim Hart told Bob Broeg in a 1968 interview. “I can’t say enough about him.”
“I play for Bob Reynolds first, the team second,” Reynolds told Broeg in the same 1968 interview, “because if I can face myself in the mirror after the game, if I can say, ‘I played my best all the way,’ then I know I’ve served the team and Bob Reynolds.”
Former Cardinal defensive lineman Dave Long used to face Reynolds in practice and later played against him after being traded to the New Orleans Saints.
“I had the opportunity to work against each of the lineman in practice,” Long recently told me. “From Bob, I learned the importance of getting upfield to the outside as quickly as possible, which in turn would give one the opportunity to grab the offensive lineman’s inside shoulder and come back underneath to the quarterback.”
Robert Louis Reynolds was born on January 22, 1939 in Nashville, TN. He was the oldest of 12 children—six girls, six boys—born to Forrest Reynolds, a 6-8, 280 lb. machine operator, and the former Venell Blackwell who was 6-2 herself. The family later moved to Cleveland where Bob played high school football.
“I don’t have a sister under 6-3,” Reynolds once said.
Bob had scholarship offers from more than ten schools, including Purdue, but he chose to play at Bowling Green, partly based on advice he received from his high school coach who told him that it was wise to be “a big fish in a smaller pond.”
Reynolds excelled at Bowling Green and was regarded by many as the finest lineman in school history. He earned his degree in Industrial Arts and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 1973.
Bob played in the Coaches’ All-America and College All-Star games in 1963 before being drafted by the Cardinals.
Reynolds entered the NFL as a quiet, reserved man, but over the next several years developed an outgoing personality and a desire to communicate and help others.
Reynolds talked about his younger days in an interview with Bob Oates Jr. in a 1971 Edition of Pro! Magazine. “Back in school I was just a big jock. I played ball and all I wanted was to get out and turn professional to make some money. It was like I was in a state of limbo. I was completely hung up on materialism. And it was the same after I got into pro ball. In the offseason I had a job working for a big corporation. I was just grinding away making money. I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden one morning I woke up and said, ‘What the hell am I doing? I’m out here working with all of these inhuman machines. I’m not helping anybody with anything.’ I gave the company one week’s notice and decided to go back to school to find out what’s going on.”
Reynolds found out what was going on at St. Louis University. He earned his Master’s degree in Urban Affairs and spent much of his time helping children and the less fortunate.
In the spring of 1971, Reynolds volunteered two days a week spending time with kids in detention homes. According to Reynolds, he didn’t do much talking.
“There’s no point in saying much,” Reynolds said. “They’ve been talked to enough. What they need is somebody to listen, somebody they can rap out their problems with. Nobody has ever paid much attention to them and it’s like they’re saying, ‘Hey, man. I’m here.'”
Later that fall, the Big Red released Reynolds just weeks after head coach Bob Hollway called him one of the “best in the business.” At 33 years old, Reynolds was making an All-Pro salary and the Cards had just drafted Dan Dierdorf and acquired veteran tackle Steve Wright.
“At that age, you have to be worried,” Reynolds told Bob Burnes of the St. Louis Globe Democrat. “But it was like a bolt from the blue when I got a call to come to Coach Hollway’s room and to bring my play book with me.”
Reynolds would quickly sign with the New England Patriots where he would play for most of two seasons before returning to the Cardinals for one game in 1973.
Reynolds retired in 1974 and would work 20 years for Anheuser Busch. He moved to the Chicago area and served as a deacon for a church and an outreach ministry until his death in 1996 at the young age of 57.
Bob and his wife Barbara had two sons, Kier and Gary, and a daughter Dawn.
Keir Reynolds recently shared some thoughts about his father.
“He was like a big brother to a lot of my friends in the neighborhood when we were growing up (in University City). He spoke at a lot of different boys clubs as a mentor and he was a car lover. He was an educated man, a God fearing man and very well respected in the St. Louis community.”
Bob Reynolds may be a forgotten star to many fans, but he was arguably the greatest left tackle in Cardinals history, and by all accounts an even better person.