|No. 19, 13|
|Date of birth:||October 14, 1943|
|Place of birth:||Flushing, New York|
|High school:||Oklahoma City (OK) Casady|
|NFL draft:||1965 / Round: 2 / Pick: 23|
|AFL draft:||1965 / Round: 6 / Pick: 48
(By the Buffalo Bills)
Career NFL statistics
|Stats at NFL.com|
Thomas Lance Rentzel (born October 14, 1943 in Flushing, New York) is a former flanker in the National Football League (NFL) who played from 1965 to 1974. Originally a halfback for the Minnesota Vikings, he was converted to a receiver in his third season by the Dallas Cowboys and played the balance of his career at that position, including three final years for the Los Angeles Rams.
Rentzel played college football at the University of Oklahoma under famous coach Bud Wilkinson, where he starred as a versatile all-around halfback from 1962 to 1964. At Oklahoma, he was known for his open field speed and propensity for big plays rushing, receiving passes and returning kicks.
During his senior year in 1965, he was named to the All-Big Eight Conference team. That year he was Oklahoma's top pass catcher and punter. In the Big Eight Conference his 5.4 rushing average was second only to Gale Sayers. He was also the conference's No. 3 pass receiver, as well as No. 2 punter with a 40.5-yard average.
He was one of three Sooners stars who missed the 1965 Gator Bowl game against Florida State University. Rentzel, offensive lineman Ralph Neely and fullback Jim Grisham had signed with professional teams before the game and were ruled ineligible for the contest, which Florida State University won 36–19 on the strength of four touchdown catches by Fred Biletnikoff.
Rentzel was drafted in the second round of the 1965 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings, where he played sparingly as a backup running back due to recurring injuries. During his first two seasons, his contributions came mainly as a kickoff returner: as a rookie in 1965, he set the record for the longest kickoff return (101 yards) in franchise history. This record was broken by Aundrae Allison's 104-yarder in 2007.
The Cowboys gave him a second chance and converted him into a flanker, where he became not only an immediate starter but also one of the best NFL wideouts, leading the team in receptions from 1967 through 1969 and in receiving yards from 1968 through 1969.
He spent his prime seasons with the Cowboys, where he formed the best NFL wide receiver duo with NFL Hall of Famer Bob Hayes. He starred in the 1967 NFL Championship, known since as the "Ice Bowl," scoring a fourth quarter, go-ahead touchdown later negated by the Packers' game-clinching TD drive. His best season came in 1968, when he caught 54 receptions for 1,009 yards. In 1969 he had a career-high 12 touchdown receptions and tied with Tom Matte as the NFL touchdown leader (13).
He was leading the team in receiving yards in 1970 when he was arrested for exposing himself to a ten-year-old girl. At the time the accusation was made, the press revealed a nearly forgotten incident that happened when as a Minnesota Viking in September 1966, he was charged with exposing himself to two young girls in St. Paul, and pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of disorderly conduct. He was not sentenced, but merely ordered to seek psychiatric care. Because of the nationwide reaction and publicity from the 1970 scandal, Rentzel asked the Cowboys to place him on the inactive list so he could devote his time to settling his personal affairs. His wife, the singer and actress Joey Heatherton, divorced him shortly thereafter.
During the offseason, Rentzel was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for the tight end Billy Truax and the wide receiver Wendell Tucker. Head coach Tom Landry said after the trade, "We know we are giving up on one of the top flankers in the league, but I thought he would be better off in another city where he had the same opportunity regularly. We found this in Los Angeles, and it was one of the teams Lance wanted to be traded to if he were traded."
Although he spent only four seasons with the Cowboys, Rentzel left as the team's fourth all-time wide receiver in addition to other franchise records:
- Most consecutive 100-yard receiving games (three), until Michael Irvin passed him in 1995 with four.
- Second in yards per reception (19.2), behind Bob Hayes and Alvin Harper (20).
- Still fourth for most receiving touchdowns in a season (12).
- Still fourth for most career postseason receiving yards (242) despite not playing in 1970.
- Still fourth for most receiving yards in a game (233).
Los Angeles Rams
In October 1972, he was the subject of a lengthy feature article in SPORT Magazine written by Gary Cartwright. Also that year, Rentzel wrote When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow, about his professional football experiences and personal life.
In 1973, while on probation for the indecent exposure charge, Rentzel was suspended indefinitely by the National Football League at the start of the 1973 season for conduct detrimental to the league after being convicted for possession of marijuana. He was reinstated in 1974 after a ten-month suspension.
Rentzel was one of three men credited with inspiring the eccentricities that surround "Media Day" at the Super Bowl. In January 1975 SPORT Magazine editor Dick Schaap hired Rentzel and teammate Fred Dryer to cover Super Bowl IX. Donning costumes inspired by The Front Page, "Cubby O'Switzer" (Rentzel) and "Scoops Brannigan" (Dryer) peppered players and coaches from both the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers with questions that ranged from the clichéd to the downright absurd.
In August, before the beginning of the 1975 NFL season, the Rams put him on waivers, effectively ending his career.
After playing in nine NFL seasons, he had accumulated 4,826 yards receiving, 196 yards rushing, and 1,000 yards returning punts and kickoffs. He also had a perfect passer rating by completing his lone pass attempt for a 58-yard touchdown.
In April 1969, Rentzel married Joey Heatherton, an actor, dancer, and singer, in New York City. In November 1970, Rentzel was arrested for exposing himself to a 10-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty to the charge and promised to undergo psychiatric treatment. Rentzel was given a suspended sentence. Heatherton filed for divorce in September 1971. It became final the following year.
- Penner, Mike. "Dick Schaap, 67; Sports Journalist" (obituary), Los Angeles Times, Saturday, December 22, 2001.
- Green, Jerry. "New Orleans Provides Wild Super Bowl Weeks," The Detroit News, Sunday, January 1, 2006.
- "Arrested for Drugs and Assault, Perennial Starlet Joey Heatherton Finally Crashes to Earth". people.com. September 15, 1986. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
- Teitelbaum, Stanley H. (2008). Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols. U of Nebraska Press. p. 222. ISBN 0-8032-1644-0.
- "Joey Heatherton Sues Rentzel For Divorce". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. September 18, 1971. p. 1. Retrieved May 29, 2014.