Sunday, July 17, 1988
Written by Frank Sanello
Quote: "EX-ATHLETE TACKLES TV MINUS CUTS
Fred Dryer played pro football for 13 years - first for the New York Giants and later the Los
Angeles Rams. During his NFL career. Dryer broke several fingers, suffered five concussions and seriously injured both shoulders. "It was only five fingers - but who's counting?" Dryer shrugs.
That's just the sort of modest machismo one might expect from the 42-year- old star of NBC's
Hunter, who has been dubbed TV's Dirty Harry. Dryer isn't crazy about that comparison,
especially since he's been trying to make his Los Angeles homicide-cop character more cerebral
and less of a tire-squealing, gun-brandishing crimebuster. "OK, I'll admit that during the first season (1984), Rick Hunter wasn't exactly the country's biggest upholder of the Miranda
decision," Dryer concedes.
"But since then, I've had more input into the scripts, and Hunter has stopped kicking in doors and smashing faces."
Dryer's interest in Hunter scripts is just one of the reasons he spends 12-hour days on the set. This season, the actor directed several episodes, and found that harder than any tackle he ever made.
"For the long haul, TV drains you more than football," says Dryer. "In football, you play your
game, then you go home. On the set, you're on your feet all day. Your mind is engaged with your work at all times." Many football players with more name recognition than Dryer failed to make the transition to film and television. Joe Namath and John Matuszak both had shots at TV
stardom and flopped. Dryer's series, however, is one of the highest-rated cop shows on TV.
Dryer, a former All-Pro defensive end, says he thinks he succeeded where so many of his sports
colleagues failed because he left his glory days on the gridiron behind. Dryer was willing to
re-create himself and develop his acting talents, rather than approach show business as a
"When people come from another area of success, whether it's sports or music or dance, they
have to leave that world behind, kill the guy that made them a star and start completely over
again," explains Dryer. One of the ways Dryer killed off his jock persona was to enroll in acting classes while still tackling opponents on the field. His teacher was and still is Nina Foch, one of Los Angeles' most prestigious drama coaches. Dryer also kept his past at bay by turning down both a lucrative beer commercial ("Anybody who ever wore a jersey ends up on TV pushing suds") and a two-year contract with CBS as a color commentator worth $200,000 a year.
When he left the Rams in 1981, Dryer didn't have any aspirations to be a coach, manager, owner
"I didn't want any part of hanging on to the sport," he says.