|No. 19, 13|
|Date of birth:October 14, 1943|
|Place of birth: Flushing, New York|
|NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 2 / Pick: 23|
|AFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 6 / Pick: 48|
(By the Buffalo Bills)
|Debuted in 1965 for the Minnesota Vikings|
|Last played in 1974 for the St. Louis Rams|
|* Minnesota Vikings 1965-66|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NFL.com|
Thomas Lance Rentzel (born October 14, 1943 in Flushing, New York) is a former American football wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL) for the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams from 1965 to 1974.
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 Gayle 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 which was eventually broken by Aundrae Allison's 104-yarder in 2007.
The Cowboys gave him a second chance and converted him to wide receiver, 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 hall of famer Bob Hayes. Of note, he starred in the "Ice Bowl," scoring a fourth quarter, go-ahead touchdown negated by the Packers' late winning 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. He missed the last three games of the 1970 regular season, including the Cowboys' playoff drive to its narrow Super Bowl V loss to the Baltimore Colts on Jim O'Brien's tie-breaking field goal with about half a minute to play.
During the offseason, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for tight end Billy Truax and 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 their fourth all-time wide receiver in addition to other franchise records:
- 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
After his second season with the Rams, Rentzel was suspended indefinitely by the league at the start of the 1973 season for conduct detrimental to the National Football League after being convicted of marijuana possession. He was reinstated in 1974 after a ten-month suspension.
In August, before the start 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 November 1970, Rentzel was arrested for exposing himself to a 10-year-old girl in University Park, a suburb of Dallas. His wife, singer/actress Joey Heatherton, divorced him shortly thereafter. Four years earlier, as a Viking, a similar incident occurred on a Minnesota playground. He was charged with disorderly conduct in exchange for promising to seek psychiatric treatment. He was subsequently traded to the Dallas Cowboys. Preceding the 1971 season, the Cowboys traded him to the Rams for Billy Truax and Wendell Tucker. In 1973, while on probation for the indecent exposure charge, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended him for the entire 1973 season, but allowed him to return for a final season with the Rams in 1974 before he retired.
Rentzel was one of three men credited with inspiring the eccentricities that surround "Media Day" at the Super Bowl. Then-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 clichéd to downright absurd. This wasn't Rentzel's first association with SPORT magazine; he was the subject of a lengthy feature article written by author Gary Cartwright in the October 1972 issue.
In 1972, Rentzel authored a book about his professional football experiences and personal life entitled When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong was named after him.
- "Cowboys Deal Rentzel, Acquire Alworth," The Washington Post, Thursday, May 20, 1971.
- 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.
- 50 Plus One Greatest Sports Heroes of All Times: North American Edition, by Paul J. Christopher, Alicia Marie Smith, pg 31