The New York Times
October 27, 1988
Written by DAVE ANDERSON
Quote: "Hunter on the Hunted
LOS ANGELES - INSIDE a tree-shaded Tudor home on a sunny street, Fred Dryer, the television
detective known as Hunter, was talking to his director about the next take. In this scene the Los
Angeles plainclothes policeman is checking out the vestibule where the dead body landed after being
"This time," he said. "I'm going to walk a little faster." In the next take, Hunter moved quicker, like a
detective on a murder case who didn't have any time to waste.
"Cut, that was beautiful," the director said. "Print it."
Satisfied now, Fred Dryer strolled out to his tan trailer while the crew set up for the next scene. Once
an agile 225-pound defensive end for 13 seasons with the Rams and the Giants, he now has the title
role in the popular television show "Hunter," which is in its fifth season. But unlike so many athletes
who talk about someday "being an actor" as if they could just take off their uniforms and do it, he
understood that he had to be prepared.
"I knew I wanted to do this, but I kept my mouth shut," he was saying now in the trailer. "People
assumed I got it because I played football, but in 1981 after the Rams released me I transferred all
my energy to acting. I went to Nina Foch's school. I read for parts as a 'day' player. I did different
roles in television and movies. By the time 'Hunter' came along, I was ready. And in this business,
nobody can say: 'Fred, you're 35. You have to leave.'"
HE had to leave the National Football League, but as with most former players, the N.F.L. has never
left him. Hunter has a theory as to why so many of pro football's hunted, its quarterbacks, have been
broken and battered this seasons.
"Violence is at its zenith in pro football," he said. "Every year the game is played by bigger, faster
people. Ever since they moved the hashmarks closer to the middle of the field, they exposed the
quarterback. There's no short side of the field to protect the quarterback anymore. When the hashmarks were closer to the sideline, the blitzes came from either the strong side or the weak side.
But now the blitzes come from all over."
According to Dryer, in his era the defensive linemen controlled the pass rush.
"Now the linebackers control it, they're the open guys," he said. "Quarterbacks send out five
receivers with nobody back there to block the linebackers. And when the defensive linemen see that,
it tees them off. The biggest people in the game are more teed off than ever by the time they get to
Dryer believes that artificial turf has contributed to quarterback injuries.
"I'll watch games on natural grass," he said, "but not games on artificial turf. It reminds me too much
of the bitter preparation I needed to play on that stuff. Different shoes. Different pads. I used to turn
my knee pads upside down to prevent rug burns on my shins. But even with elbow pads, I had sores
on my elbows that didn't heal for four months after the season because of the poison in that artificial
"Running backs and wide receivers love it because they can cut quickly. But linemen hate it. I had to
give myself an extra 3 or 4 yards to come to a stop. If you get knocked down, it's like falling in the
street. I had kidney pains from body whiplash from being slammed down on it. After a game I had to
ice my ankles, knees, elbows and neck. I had five concussions in football: three from kicks, two from
being slammed to artificial turf."
Dryer questioned the standards of the N.F.L. Players Association as well as those of some of the
"Baseball has set the union standards for professional leadership in sports," he said. "In both pro
football strikes, the strike never came from within the players. Both times the players were told by the
union what they had to do. The players never struck because they knew it was the right thing to do.
In pro football, the union just wants to be liked by everybody. And if you do that, you don't have
"I never had a drug problem. I never had a drinking problem. I just had a winning problem. If some of
the players had standards, they wouldn't be on dope. I think the fans are tired of seeing boring, rich
drug addicts playing football.
"When I look at Lawrence Taylor, on the field he's licensed and paid and admired for what he does.
Off the field, he's monitored. But the only thing that's going to establish Lawrence Taylor's career is
his standards off the field. How he conducts himself off the field is what's going to have a lasting
effect on what he was as a football player.
"Lawrence Taylor is such a good linebacker, he's a role model for his teammates. But if I was his
teammate now, I'd be teed off at him for his suspension."
LEAN and tanned, the 6-foot-5-inch Dryer stood up and changed into a different shirt, a different tie
and a different sports jacket for his next scene.
"I was looked at as a weak link because I played defensive end at 225," he said. "But that drove me
to play harder until I was legislated against by the new rules that changed the way offensive linemen
were allowed to block. They just brought in every big bartender they could find and let them hold. But
by then I knew I wanted to do what I'm doing now."
With a knock on the door, it was time for Hunter to return to the house for his next scene.
"I was replaceable in the N.F.L.," he said. "But there's only one guy who can play Hunter and that's
me. The weight of that responsibility defines me now."