Great moments in Redskins hazing

November 6, 2013
(Dan Steinberg/The Washington Post)
(Dan Steinberg/The Washington Post)

There’s been so much talk of hazing in the NFL in recent days that I had to go through The Post’s voluminous archives to see just how younger Redskins players were hazed back in the day.

For all I know, these tales have been horribly sanitized, and the actual working conditions were far more sinister. But golly, this makes the NFL of the ’60s and ’70s sound an awful lot like a wonderful black-and-white sitcom in which everyone owns a letter jacket and eats baloney-on-white-bread out of a lunch pail.

August of 1960, by Jack Walsh

Rookies get a gentle hazing from Redskin veterans at dinner time when they’re called on to stand, put their hands over their hearts and sing their school song.

Clown Bob Toneff made this request the other day: “Ray Krouse, the best rookie in the history of the National Football League, will you stand and sing your song? Krouse, 10-year pro vet from Maryland, just went on eating, saying “I not only forget the song, I forget where I went to school it’s been so long ago.”

October of 1966, by Dave Brady

[Chris] Hanburger deadlocked [Sonny] Jurgensen in the ballots for the Hecht award. “That’s a fine thing to hear,” Hanburger said, when notified on the telephone.

The No. 18 draft choice from the University of North Carolina, whose weight dipped as low as 209 as a rookie last season, was amused by the notion of tying Jurgensen, the Duke man.

As part of his hazing as a “rook,” Hanburger had to stand on a chair in the dining hall in training camp and sing the North Carolina alma mater.

August of 1967, by Ken Denlinger

For [Spain] Musgrove, one of the means of measuring [weight loss] progress is that the chair he stands on nightly while serenading the veterans does not wobble so much as it did a month ago.

This hazing, though not so demanding as it once was, according to the old-timers, made an impression on Musgrove. His baritone rendition of ‘Old McDonald Had a Farm’ is one of the high points of each night meal.

“The hazing bugged me at first,” he said. “Now I know it’s all part of the game — a tradition.”

August of 1968, by Bill Gildea

Hazing is mild in the Redskins’ camp, and hardly enough to disturb the poise [Gary] Beban has shown despite his ordeals, but there are still subtle reminders of his lowly status as a rookie.

The other night at dinner he received a good-natured order from Charley Taylor to report to his table. After having a pass get away from him, Beban drew a quip from Sonny Jurgensen.

September of 1972, by Ken Denlinger

There was a time not long ago when rookie hazing was a healthy part of each team’s tradition. It was much like pledging a fraternity. Now, about all that remains is the singing.

“Get up there on that chair, and sing your school song,” a Redskin veteran told a rookie at dinner this year. “And sing like you are a No. 1 draft choice.”

“But, I’m only a No. 10,” the rookie begged.

“Around here, that’s No. 1,” a George Allen fan yelled.

August of 1991, by Jim Brady

“When I first came into the league, the Redskins had a very veteran football team,” [Jeff] Bostic said. “They were hard on rookies. You ate dinner early, and if they caught you in there, you’d have to sing and get food for them. They had very little conversation with you.”

August of 1993, by David Aldridge

An NFL rookie used to know his place. He would get up on a table when asked and sing his school song. He would drive the veterans around and get their books for them. He would be available for humiliation.

“Things are changing,” said Washington Redskins linebacker Monte Coleman, now in his 15th season. “I sang every day. I felt like that was my duty. Now they come in with attitudes. They make more money than the veterans. It’s hard to suggest or say anything to them. Things have gotten a lot slacker.”

August of 2001, by Liz Clarke

[Fred] Smoot’s brashness has made him a favorite target of hazing by the team’s veterans. Yesterday, the back of his No. 21 jersey was covered with his elder teammates’ autographs. “Veterans, they love messing with me,” Smoot said.

August of 2002, by Mark Maske

Rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey had been tied to a goal post at the Dickinson College field for nearly half an hour when Coach Steve Spurrier drove by on a golf cart and told the first-round draft selection, “It means they love you if they tie you up.”…

Right tackle Jon Jansen and tight end Walter Rasby grabbed Ramsey and led a band of Redskins veterans who used medical and duct tape to attach Ramsey to a goal post. That’s where Ramsey stayed for about 30 minutes, even good-naturedly conducting interviews with reporters. Jansen dumped a bucket of cold water on him. LaVar Arrington stood alongside him and had a picture taken.

“Some would say it was Smoot’s idea,” Jansen said. “Some would say it was my idea. It’s just one of those things that rookies have to go through….The main reason was, he’s a young guy. We’ll treat him like that until he earns our respect, and then everything will calm down.”

August of 2002, by Mark Maske

The hazing continues for rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who emerged from the locker room for this morning’s practice minus his jersey, which had been hung high above the field on the tower from which club employees tape practices. The jersey of second-round pick Ladell Betts was also hung.

September of 2003, by Nunyo Demasio

Redskins recall an episode during training camp when a rookie was asked to sing as part of the typical hazing. The player was reluctant to do so. Jansen pulled him aside and urged him on. The rookie heeded Jansen’s suggestion. Then teammates went overboard, demanding that the rookie sing more songs. But Jansen spoke up, putting an end to the silliness.

August of 2004, by Thomas Boswell

LaVar Arrington squished a shaving-cream pie, containing menthol, into [Sean] Taylor’s face as a hazing prank. Taylor rolled on the ground in pain, screaming that he was blind, and missed practice the next day with eye problems. Remember, LaVar, next time use key lime, not Gillette Foamy.

August of 2004, by an intern

[Mark Wilson] was pretty easy to spot once the players removed their helmets after last night’s rookie hazing. Wilson was forced to shave the front of his head — from his forehead to behind his ears — making him appear as if he has a severely receding hairline capped off with a long ponytail.

July of 2008, by me

Training camp hazing seemed to be progressing according to schedule. Rookies were carrying the helmets of vets. Wits were calling rookie tight end Fred “I Overslept” Davis “Big Sleepy” and “Z’s.” Newcomers were called upon to stand on a chair and warble during Sunday night’s dinner….

Coach Jim Zorn arrived after the vocal interlude and said there would be no more veteran-ordered singing this year.

“I just remember how distracting it is for a young guy trying to make a football team,” Zorn explained. “And when I went to Seattle, one of the early meetings in training camp, Mike Holmgren stood up and said, ‘Men, there will be no hazing.’ I thought: ‘What an idea! Gosh!’ And he explained why, and he kind of explained that whole thing that I always thought: ‘What are we doing here?’ You know, we’re grown men, we’re fighting to make a football team.”

August of 2009, by me

[Albert Haynesworth] and Cornelius Griffin tied five rookies to the goalposts, four to each other on the ground, and then nabbed late arrivals Marko Mitchell and Keith Eloi and taped them up back-to-back, standing up….

“It’s hot, they’re real tired, so we just want to make sure they cool out,” Haynesworth said. “This is family right here, so this is how we’re doing to our little brothers….This is what we always do, this is to show love to our little brothers right here, to welcome them to the Redskins, so you’ve got to show them love.”…

I have a lot of experience doing it. We had to do our rookies right out at Tennessee, so I’m teaching my fellow brothers here with the Redskins how to do it. Plus, I’m from South Carolina. That’s not exactly where they filmed Deliverance, but close.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · November 6, 2013