Lisa Dudley Rentz calls it “The Jello Factor.” It typically begins after introductions at business meetings, cocktail parties, even at a fitness gym.
“Lisa Rentz?” the questioner queries. “Are you related to Larry Rentz?”
“Actually I am, yeah, he’s my husband,” Lisa will reply of her 15-year marriage.
Recreating the next response, Lisa Rentz stands, her body now into a jello-like shimmy. “Oh, my god!” Larry Rentz’ wife? He was one of the best …”
“Literally they vibrate,” Lisa recounts, still in full swing mode. “And when we’re at a function, these people are stepping in-between, and Larry has had to push them aside.”
Fifty years after his name became synonymous with undefeated football success at Coral Gables High School (‘There’s No Defense/For Larry Rentz”), at the age of 65, the Rentz legend still lives. And there is as much poignancy as performance to a journey that has enveloped family, friends and associates.
Larry Smith, who was named to the list of 100 greatest high school football players in Florida in the last century, calls Rentz, his former roommate and teammate at the University of Florida, “probably the finest athlete I’ve ever seen.”
“We used to kid that Larry was so quick he could dodge raindrops,” said Smith, an attorney in Tampa, who completed his own illustrious high school (Tampa Robinson), college (Florida) and pro football careers (Los Angeles Rams/Washington Redskins).
Allan Brown, another teammate and friend of Rentz in high school and college, says of trying to scrimmage one-on-one against him as a defensive player, “I never ever, ever could tackle him. I never could get my hands on him because I never knew where he was going to be. He was such a natural.”
J. Harrell Reid, the long-time sheriff in Jasper has known Rentz since the two met at a North-South high school All-Star game. An offensive guard at Florida, Reid also roomed with Rentz and says today, “there was always that something special about him, and he’s demonstrated that in the way he has acted toward people — a gentleman in every sense of the word.”
The state of Florida has produced its share of talented quarterbacks — from Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow to George Mira, Daunte Culpepper, Eddie McAshan, John Reaves, Tommie Frazier and Steve Kiner in high school to a decorated college crop that includes Steve Spurrier, Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh, Craig Curry and Steve Tensi among others. All had their share of magic moments and prolific numbers, but none carried the unlikely intangibles that have allowed Rentz’ legacy to endure:
• His unusual physical makeup. At 6-2 and closer to 135 pounds than 145, “he was so thin he couldn’t have two numbers on his jersey,” recalls Reid, who dubbed Rentz “The Blade.” Carl Rentz once saw a newspaper photo of his brother buried inside a football helmet, and dubbed him “Skullhead.”
• A speech impediment (stuttering) that might have stifled another athlete at such a skilled position. John Norris, a fullback and former Gables teammate, recalls how Rentz, in the 1964 state championship game against Jacksonville Lee, called a timeout late in the game, went to the sidelines and convinced coach Nick Kotys, on a goal-line fourth down, to shun a field goal and run a fullback power play that Norris ultimately converted into the winning touchdown.