“This is it,” CBS announcer Jack Buck bellowed. “The Redskins trail the Giants 14-12, and it’s up to Mark Moseley. The ball is spotted at the 41-yard line, right in the middle of a snowstorm. Here’s the kick. It’s up. … It’s … good! The Redskins are going to the playoffs for the first time in six years! And Mark Moseley becomes the first man to successfully make 21 straight field goals in NFL history. Holy Toledo, they’re goin’ crazy at RFK.”
“Awwright, get your butt to bed,” Frank King said, flicking off the living room TV.
Jamie started toward the hallway, he says, when Frank hit him on the back of his head with an open-hand slap. Fighting back tears, clenching his fist, refusing to let the old man know he was hurting, he kept walking down the hall, hearing a familiar refrain from his childhood:
“You’re never goin’ to amount to nothin’.”
For the next 12 years, Jamie’s worst fear was that Frank might be right. After playing backup quarterback at North Stafford High School, he took a few courses at Northern Virginia Community College, then dropped out. He played quarterback in a semi-pro league for three years. When that dream died, he wanted to become a nationally known sportscaster. But co-hosting “The Mark Rypien Show” on local cable during the Redskins’ last Super Bowl run in 1992 became the pinnacle of his broadcasting career. He paid the rent by substitute teaching, running a summer football camp in Fredericksburg featuring Redskins players, and working in a call center that sold student-loan consolidations.
Then, in 1994, Jamie King got the break he was looking for, in the form of a phone call.
“Would you like to coach my football team?” the man on the other end of the line asked.
Open tryouts for a semi-pro team had been announced in the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg that April. Paying homage to the town’s Civil War roots, the team would be called the Fredericksburg Generals. It would compete in the Mason-Dixon Football League, a still relatively unknown minor league association founded in 1978. The league had featured a revolving door of teams along the Eastern Seaboard over the years, only one of which — the Arbutus Big Red of Baltimore — had entered a team every season. More often, a franchise would spring up one year and, buried in debt and expenses a year later, disappear just as easily.
Of the eight candidates interviewed, King was the youngest, at 29. Besides the summer football camps for kids he organized, he had no coaching experience.
“But he had heart, I remember that — he just sparkled in that interview,” says Hal James, now 74, the owner and co-founder who spent about $10,000 in 1994 to purchase a Mason-Dixon charter for Fredericksburg. “He’d been wantin’ to be a good coach all his life. He seemed to know a couple of Redskins players from his days as a broadcaster, and he knew the league, having played quarterback in it. I knew he wanted the job more than all of ’em, so I gave it to him. He sold us on him; he sold us hard.”