By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 2, 2008
The Washington Redskins and their followers knew this day would come for Darrell Green; it was only a matter of when. They had begun to doubt whether it would arrive for Art Monk.
But now that it's here, the Redskins couldn't imagine a better scenario as Green, the ebullient former cornerback, and Monk, the quiet former wide receiver, will share the stage on the evening they receive their sport's highest individual honor. The former Redskins teammates are part of the six-member class of former NFL greats scheduled to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during ceremonies today in Canton, Ohio.
Monk and Green will join Gary Zimmerman (tackle for the Vikings and Broncos), Emmitt Thomas (defensive back for the Chiefs), Andre Tippett (linebacker for the Patriots) and Fred Dean (defensive end for the Chargers and 49ers) as members of the Class of 2008.
"What makes this even more significant than just being in the Hall of Fame is that we're going in together," Monk said of being inducted with Green. "He wasn't just a teammate of mine. He's a great friend. Our families are like real family."
Those in and around the Redskins organization who waited patiently for Green's inevitable election and suffered impatiently through Monk's seven previous Hall of Fame rejections now can rest easy.
"I am at peace with everything in the world of football," former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said. "It's a great honor to be able to tell my children and my children's children that I played with those two guys. They're incredible athletes and perfect gentlemen, and now they're both where they deserve to be, in the Hall of Fame."
Green was considered a virtual Hall of Fame lock by most observers before the media voting committee made it official the day before the Super Bowl and elected him in his first year of eligibility. He once was the league's fastest man, and his career was remarkable for its longevity and consistency. He was one of the most popular and dignified players in franchise history.
But Green said he never regarded himself as a lock to be included in today's enshrinement ceremonies, recalling a conversation he had with his son Jared on the morning of the vote. Jared asked his father why he was so nervous, being such a shoo-in for election. Green called his son crazy, he said, and then the two went back and forth like that until Green realized his son didn't have the same view of his football career as he did. His son never saw him as the little guy from the little school, Texas A&I, who wasn't supposed to make it.
"I said, 'You know what, it just hit me: You're seeing my career from your perspective. I'm seeing it from mine,' "Green said. "I was JV in 11th grade, walked on in college, dropped out of school, went back, and everyone always told me I was too small, blah, blah, blah. And so we kind of realized, 'You know what, you can respect what I'm feeling, and I can respect what you're feeling. But now you understand why I'm not a shoo-in when I'm looking from my vantage point.' . . . So it was really interesting."
Green picked his son as his presenter today, just as Monk chose his son, James Monk Jr.
The words for today's acceptance speech should come easily for Green. He never met a microphone he didn't like, and when he was elected in February he practically took over the stage at the convention center in Phoenix while organizers waited for other players to become available.
It promises to be different for Monk, who was notoriously media-shy during his playing days. It reached the point that fervent supporters of his Hall of Fame candidacy began to wonder whether his snubs of the reporters who became voters had come back to haunt him.
Monk won't be the only once-reclusive player to have to stand up this evening and give the speech of a lifetime. Zimmerman also was known for keeping his thoughts to himself as a player, and he said the attention and coverage he has received since being elected in February have been "a little stressful."
But Zimmerman also said the speechwriting process had gone better than expected.
"The problem is I've got twice as much as I need," Zimmerman said, "so that's my issue right now, and I'm trying to cut it in half and not screw up the whole meaning of it. . . . For the first time in my life, I have too much to say."
Monk seemed to be similarly unburdened.
"Basically you're just writing about your experience, maybe what you think about the Hall of Fame, about receiving this honor, identifying people who have helped you along the way," Monk said. "You know, maybe making a statement about how you feel, what you stand for, those kinds of things. So it's just a matter of kind of pulling all those thoughts together and putting them in a form that kind of makes sense to everybody."
Monk was expansive during a conference call with reporters this week, talking about his first experience in organized football playing Pop Warner as an 11-year-old -- he detested it, he said -- and beginning his high school career as a lineman before finally getting a chance as a tight end during his junior year.
He went on to become the model of professionalism and workmanlike productivity for the superb Redskins teams of Joe Gibbs's first coaching go-round. Gibbs and others associated with the organization were amazed and annoyed year after year when the Hall of Fame selectors passed over Monk.
"I've heard all kinds of reasons why it took so long -- that I was quiet, wasn't a very outspoken person," Monk said. "I didn't speak to the media, wasn't good enough -- a lot of different reasons. Whether they're valid or not, again, it was what it was. So there's really not much I can do about it. . . . I think I'm sort of glad it took longer.
"I can appreciate it more. You know, these past seven [or] eight years, there's been so much. It just set people in an uproar in this community, you know: 'Why not? What's the problem? How come you're not in?' Really, when I think back, just sit down and think about it, I'm glad it didn't happen right away. Otherwise I would never have gone through all of these years just kind of really getting more of an appreciation for it."