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Before he was the best acclaimed amateur in the country, afore he was a abridged awareness and a Hollywood legend, Burt Reynolds was a football player. He was a 205-pound active aback at Florida State, and football was his passion.

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“He had a dream of arena in the NFL,” said ESPN’s Lee Corso, Reynolds’ acquaintance at Florida State. “He admired football.”

A knee abrasion concluded that dream afore Reynolds’ football career could booty off, however, and so he set his architect on acquisition Hollywood instead. Corso remembers Reynolds abiding from a summer banal amphitheater affairs in Palm Beach, Florida, and announcement he was affective to California to become a star.

“OK, sure,” Corso told him.

But that’s absolutely what happened. In the after years, Reynolds would become one of the best acclaimed men in the country, and he fabricated some of the best accepted sports movies of all time, from “The Longest Yard” to “Stroker Ace” to “Cannonball Run.”

For all his acclaim and fortune, two things remained a connected for Reynolds: He admired sports, and he admired his teammates, and he kept those two things abutting until he died aftermost week.

“We were accompany 64 years, and it started aback we were teammates at Florida State,” Corso said. “He became the world’s better cine star, but he never forgot his old teammates at Florida State. We were close. Acceptable and bad times. But abnormally in the bad times, we were the closest.”

Reynolds’ quarterback during his arena canicule was Vic Prinzi, who went on to become the longtime blush analyst on FSU broadcasts. Dom DeLuise’s appearance in “Cannonball Run” is alleged Victor Prinzim in a nod to Reynolds’ old teammate, and the two remained abutting accompany until Prinzi died of lung blight in 1998.

Prinzi’s advertisement partner, Gene Deckerhoff, remembered visiting Prinzi a few months afore his death. Florida State had absent to Florida the day before, and that’s all Prinzi could allocution about.

“He was dying, was accomplishing chemo, and he was cussin’ mad about us accident to Florida,” Deckerhoff said.

The abutting week, Deckerhoff was in New York City for a basketball tournament. He knew Reynolds was in town, too, so Deckerhoff alleged him. The aboriginal affair Reynolds capital to apperceive was how his acquaintance was doing.

“He looks awful,” Deckerhoff told him. “And all he capital to do was accuse about us accident to Florida. He was cussin’ mad.”

There was blackout on the buzz for a moment afore Reynolds chimed in.

“Well, Gene,” he said, “aren’t we all?”

Reynolds was so amorous about Florida State football that he fabricated it a antecedence to get to Tallahassee any time he could. He endemic a home in Jupiter, Florida, and in the 1980s and aboriginal ’90s he’d hop in a helicopter and fly up aloof to watch practice.

“He’d access unannounced and acreage on what acclimated to be the Florida Aerial Academy baseball field,” said FSU accessory contest administrator Rob Wilson. “He’d aloof appear over and watch convenance for an hour and a bisected in the average of the week.”

It ability appear beyond like a hot-shot celebrity move, but Reynolds never acted like a VIP already he arrived. He became abutting with FSU drillmaster Bobby Bowden and others at the academy and fabricated acceptable donations to the program.

“He could airing into a allowance and ablaze it up,” Wilson said, “then aloof alpha arise on people. He was aloof the best guy.”

Bobby Bowden has a antic he casting to acquaint about his time with Reynolds that’s at atomic partially based on a accurate story.

Back in the aboriginal canicule of Bowden’s administration at Florida State, it was still OK to accompany boosters on a recruiting trip, so Bowden pitched Reynolds on a plan. There was a kid from Ohio that Bowden capital to sign, the son in a single-parent home. So the brace flew up for a visit, with Bowden affairs the kid on Florida State while Reynolds wooed the mom.

Bowden’s punchline: “The kid concluded up activity to Notre Dame, and the mother came to Florida State.”

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In 1993, Reynolds was starring on a TV appearance alleged “Evening Shade,” and he had a role in apperception for Bowden.

On the show, Reynolds plays a above NFL amateur and aerial academy coach, and in the episode, he’s acquisitive Bowden will recruit his son to comedy at Florida State. The episode’s appellation is “Saint Bobby.”

Bowden was in New York City, appointed to fly to L.A. the abutting day for filming, aback he got the script.

“It was about an inch thick,” Bowden said. “I anticipation there was no way I could acquire all that.”

Bowden showed up on set absolutely terrified, and things alone got worse aback he accomplished there was a alive flat audience. A big bold is one thing, but flubbing curve in advanced of this army was a accomplished altered deal.

“Reynolds realizes what’s activity on, and he sits Drillmaster Bowden bottomward and says, aloof do what you would do aback you’re recruiting a player,” Wilson recalled.

So that’s what Bowden did. He got the basis of the script, and in the end, no one seemed to apprehension the drillmaster hadn’t a clue what he was doing.

“When it was over,” Bowden said, “[Reynolds] came over and gave me a bays and said, ‘Good job.'”

“The Cannonball Run” and “Stroker Ace” gave Reynolds access into the apple of cars, and, of course, his best acclaimed role in “Smokey and the Bandit” featured him in a Trans-Am that became alike with his brand. It all helped Reynolds beforehand a adulation for antagonism that eventually assertive him to alpha a chase aggregation with actor, administrator and achievement man Hal Needham.

Harry Gant was a longtime disciplinarian who had formed with Needham and Reynolds on “Stroker Ace,” and Reynolds capital to appoint him to drive their car, the Skoal Bandit. Reynolds spent several hours calling Gant, aggravating to action him the job, to no avail. Assuredly in frustration, he dialed up Humpy Wheeler, a alternate acquaintance who was the accepted administrator of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, accusatory that Gant wouldn’t acknowledgment his phone.

“That’s affectionate of the way these guys are,” Wheeler explained. “They’re affectionate of cowboys.”

Reynolds consistently wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, but he was still a Hollywood big shot, and he wasn’t acclimated to bodies not abiding his calls.

“I assuredly got a authority of Peggy, his wife,” Wheeler said. “She said he was on the roof. And I knew what he was accomplishing on the roof, because he had this awe-inspiring accord about shingling roofs. Some bodies like to do crazy things, and that was one of them.”

Well, Wheeler explained to Gant’s wife, Burt Reynolds had been calling and he absolutely bare to allege with Harry. Gant had formed all his activity to get a job like this, Wheeler said, but that still wasn’t abundant to get him off the roof.

So Wheeler alleged Reynolds aback with the bad news.

“You couldn’t get him on the phone?” Reynolds asked.

“No,” Wheeler said.

“Well, area is he?”

“He’s on the roof.”

“Well bandy the buzz up to him,” Reynolds insisted.

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Wheeler had to explain he didn’t own a corpuscle buzz — this was 1982 — and that Gant wouldn’t allocution anyway. He’d acknowledgment the cine star’s alarm aback he was done shingling.

In the end, Reynolds had to account the dedication. He gave Gant the job anyway, and they formed calm for the abutting few years, with Gant award success in Reynolds’ car.

(Of note: Gant was abrading wallpaper at his home aback contacted for this story.)

Gant formed with Reynolds on several movies, including active the acclaimed Trans Am in “Smokey and the Bandit,” affairs off some of the achievement active scenes, with Needham block abaft in a convoying car.

Between scenes, Gant and Reynolds would babble about antagonism and movies, but mostly music, Gant said. They were both admirers of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. And during the filming of “The Cannonball Run,” Reynolds alike arrive Gant to banquet with the cast.

“We got to sit and eat a meal with Burt and Dean Martin and all those folks,” Gant said.

One of Gant’s admired belief happened aback cutting “Stroker Ace,” a blur about a NASCAR driver. The arena alleged for a achievement disciplinarian to accompany the chase car about the about-face and stop aloof abbreviate of the pits, area Reynolds would hop into the car, cull up for a stop and say his curve afore swapping places with the stuntman already again.

The aboriginal allotment went according to plan, and Reynolds breezed through his curve perfectly. But rather than trading with the achievement man afterward, Reynolds spun the tires and took off about the clue at top speed.

“Old Hal Needham jumped up screaming,” Gant said. “He’s yelling, ‘All I charge is him to breach his leg!'”

Reynolds’ buying stakes weren’t bound to antagonism either. In 1983, he was one of the accepted ally of the buying accumulation for the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, a name that paid admiration to one of Reynolds’ best accepted characters.

The Bandits drillmaster at the time was Steve Spurrier, who’d go on to affliction Reynolds’ admired Florida State Seminoles as the drillmaster of the Florida Gators, but in the mid-80s, the two were pals.

Reynolds would appear to amateur and roam the sidelines at the old Tampa Stadium a brace times a year, Spurrier recalled.

“And, of course, he admiring a crowd,” he said.

In 1985, the aggregation flew to California for a bold adjoin the L.A. Express, and Reynolds arrive the absolute apprenticeship agents to his Bel Air abode for lunch. Spurrier brought his wife, and they got to accommodated Reynolds’ then-wife Loni Anderson, too.

“It was absolutely a adventure for all of us on the apprenticeship staff,” Spurrier said. “And afresh we went aback and exhausted the LA Express 28-13. Go attending that up, see if I’m right. Steve Young was the quarterback for the Express, and he didn’t do abundant adjoin us that day.”

Turns out, the Bandits absolutely won 24-14.

Reynolds never got far from the Florida State football program. He afraid FSU memorabilia in the accomplishments of his movies, and he donated money to armamentarium the architecture of Burt Reynolds Hall, which served as the football dorms for decades. He was on duke in Tallahassee for the adherence of the building, too, bringing forth added stars like DeLuise, Ricardo Montalban and Ben Casey.

During the ceremony, however, a storm sprung up, sending anybody active for the dorms. Wilson awash into one allowance with Reynolds and a scattering of added non-Hollywood dignitaries. For the abutting bisected hour, while they waited out the rain, Reynolds regaled the accumulation with belief about Clint Eastwood and some of his abounding arch ladies.

“I’m assertive if addition had befuddled a few cigars in there,” Wilson wrote for this week,” he might’ve fabricated a night of it.”

Deckerhoff formed with Reynolds from 1984 through 2009 on a approved articulation for Bobby Bowden’s television appearance “Great Moments In Florida State History.” The articulation was Deckerhoff’s idea, and he’d accounting a letter to Reynolds allurement if he’d like to be a allotment of it. Reynolds was captivated at the invitation.

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Each summer, a few weeks afore abatement camp, Deckerhoff would fly to Jupiter, Florida or out to Beverly Hills to accommodated with Reynolds and almanac a season’s account of pieces. He recalls Reynolds and Prinzi arguing over how continued to baker a steak on one appointment and actuality arrive to the home of Ann-Margret and Roger Smith on addition occasion.

Once the division started, Reynolds relied on Deckerhoff to ensure he got his FSU football fix, too. In the aboriginal days, aback the amateur were all advertisement on the radio, Deckerhoff ensured Reynolds had a absolute band to the advertisement studio, area producers would application Reynolds’ buzz in so he could accept to the amateur on apostle phone. In after years, Deckerhoff would alarm Reynolds with the accessory coordinates for the television broadcasts of the games.

“He had an electronics guy who knew how to amount out how to unscramble the signals, and they’d accept a big examination affair area anybody came over to watch the games,” Deckerhoff said. “That’s how big a Seminole fan Burt was.”

Bowden got a alarm in 1982 from Reynolds. He’d been watching a Cowboys bold and admired how the brilliant on their helmets looked.

“I don’t like our uniforms,” Reynolds told the coach.

“I don’t either,” Bowden said. “But we can’t allow new ones.”

That’s all it took. Reynolds donated the money for a new set of uniforms on the action he could advice architecture them. So Bowden accomplished out to Notre Dame to acquisition out area to get some gold pants, and Reynolds formed with a Hollywood artist to put calm the jerseys. The helmets came emblazoned with a extra forth the side. They were a hit.

A few years later, Reynolds alleged again. Aback aback he played, Florida State had nice, white jerseys. He capital those, too, and so out came addition analysis to awning the costs.

Then, in 2007, Bowden said Reynolds alleged again. Bowden insisted the aggregation didn’t charge new uniforms, so Reynolds said he was sending money for Bowden to absorb on whatever the aggregation bare most.

Reynolds showed up for the Seminoles’ bold adjoin Alabama that year, and as was customary, Bowden arrive him bottomward to the acreage for warmups. The brace stood in the centermost of the field, with Reynolds eying the players, apprehensive what Bowden had bought them.

“New shoes?” he asked one player.


“New helmet?” he asked another.


Finally, Reynolds angry to Bowden and protested.

“I anticipation I said to absorb it on article they absolutely needed,” Reynolds said.

Bowden looked at Reynolds and grinned.

“I did,” he joked. “I gave it to the officials.”

Reynolds’ appellation amid abutting accompany was “Buddy.” It so happens, that’s additionally what Bowden calls aloof about everyone. So the counterfeit adventure fabricated the circuit that, aloft aboriginal affair Reynolds, Bowden said, “Well hey there, Buddy,” which amused Reynolds that the drillmaster knew his nickname.

Truth is, Bowden said, addition had angled him off about the appellation in advance, and the blow was aloof a coincidence, but he’s never been one to let a acceptable adventure go to waste.

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Still, the brace absolutely did become buddies, and it’s adamantine for Bowden to activate to abduction the appulse Reynolds had on Florida State football.

“He was the better absolute affair we had activity for us aback I came to Florida State. The actuality Buddy Reynolds was a above Florida State football player, and he ability appearance up at a bold any time. I acquainted like he gave a lot of believability to our affairs in the aboriginal stages.”

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