Clarence BEEFTANK: five foot tall, 400 pounds, 77 years old. He's played for the Jaguars, the 49ers, and the Jets, to name three of his countless former teams. He's even done a stint in the NBA, for the Grizzlies. He's a legend. The inspiration for three generations of sports fans. He doesn't, my editor tells me, do interviews.
All right. If you can't talk to the subject, talk about the subject instead. That part is easy - everyone in the NFL has something good to say about him. BEEFTANK stays behind after games to help clean up the locker room. BEEFTANK runs a charity that provides milk to deprived school-children. ("Milks," Colin Kaepernick corrects me, gently. "Clarence explained that to me once. One milk, many milks.") BEEFTANK has a heart of gold, the joy of a newborn, and plays football like God is bowling.
You'd think that there would be some resentment against a quarterback who never, ever passes. But when I ask Clay Matthews III, who played with BEEFTANK in 2009 during his three-and-a-half-game stint with the Packers, he just shakes his head. "He played with my father," Matthews says. "And my grandfather. It'd be like getting mad at a friendly mountain. That mountain isn't going anywhere. That mountain likes you. What are you yelling at a mountain for?"
Even BEEFTANK's opponents have something good to say. "He helped exorcise my ghosts," says Cam Newton, who played against BEEFTANK just two hours before we spoke. He smiles, faintly. "Just hugged them right out of me."
Everyone I talk to has a similar story of BEEFTANK's kindness. It's weird how many ghosts there are in the NFL.
When a player is as good as BEEFTANK, it's hard to understand why a team would trade him. But BEEFTANK does get traded, at a rate of about four times per year. When I ask coaches and GMs about it, they just shrug. Their eyes go glassy. Gus Bradley demands to know what I'm doing in his office.
There isn't a reason. It just seems to be understood that a gift like BEEFTANK must be shared.
Finally, it's time to try and talk to the man himself. BEEFTANK is playing for the Cowboys right now, and I sit down next to him in the stands as he watches the rest of the team go through their warm-up drills. BEEFTANK is excused from warming up because he is 77 and apparently immortal.
BEEFTANK turns and smiles at me. He offers me a sip of his Gatorades. I politely decline.
There are so many questions I want to ask him. What was playing football like in the 50s? What is the source of your powers? How did you go to college at DeVry before the internet was invented?
But I stay silent. A quick google search on my phone reveals that DeVry was actually founded in 1931. I don't know what's real anymore.
BEEFTANK glances over, and seems to take pity on me. He pulls out a photo album from underneath his jersey and pads. Leafing through, he selects a photo and hands it to me.
"What's this?" I ask.
"Family," says BEEFTANK, and pats me on the head. I'm still staring at it when he leaves.
In the game that follows, BEEFTANK scores every touchdown. His teammates cheer. The crowd goes wild. And I sit, and look at the photograph, and ponder the mystery of Clarence BEEFTANK, the best quarterback the world has ever known.
Maybe my grandchildren will figure him out.