By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2008
CANTON, Ohio, Aug. 2 -- The smoke from the fireworks had long faded into the night behind him, off in the distance, and Art Monk still was not allowed to deliver his speech. Not yet.
Not until the mass of people wearing the team colors of the Washington Redskins were allowed to serenade their beloved wide receiver from the 1980s and early '90s with chants of "We love Monk! We love Monk!" On and on that chant went.
Four minutes and change came off the clock, perhaps uncomfortably for other enshrined members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But four minutes is nothing next to eight years, the duration Monk waited before his moment came along with his teammate in time, Darrell Green.
Presented by their sons, Jared Green and James Arthur Monk Jr., their bronzed busts were displayed this evening before 16,654 who nearly filled Fawcett Stadium. Green, the former cornerback, and Monk, a record-setting wide receiver, were enshrined in Canton before many of the same loyal legions that watched them and those Joe Gibbs-coached Redskins teams bring glory and Lombardi trophies to Washington.
"Getting here did not come without controversy, as I'm sure it did with some of the guys sitting behind me," Monk said, in a reference to his seven-year rejection by Hall of Fame voters that drew laughs and applause. "But through it all I'm here with a greater appreciation for something not every player is able to achieve and for the people who stood up for me and spoke out on my behalf."
Monk was the last to be enshrined in the Class of 2008, following former New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Emmitt Thomas, who coached both Green and Monk under Gibbs in Washington for eight years and to the crowd was the third Redskin inducted; Fred Dean, the defensive end who joined the San Francisco 49ers at the beginning of their 1980s dynasty; and former Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman.
The crowd politely applauded the three inductees to come before one of their own, but the noise roiled considerably when Darrell Ray Green rose to be inducted.
"Deacon Jones said I would cry," Green said. "You bet your life I will cry. You bet your life I will."
Green and Monk complimented each other at the podium as much as they complemented each other 20 years ago on the field.
On the night their championship careers were validated in Canton, Monk's words were as elegant and dignified as Green's were passionate and tearful. They did not come to the birthplace of football as much as they came home, speaking to their extended families. They took the podium and made it their pulpit -- pastors of disparate styles and mannerisms, bringing their people to applause, over and over.
At times they led less of a Redskins revival than a religious one, mentioning often their conversion to evangelical Christianity.
"As great as this honor is, it doesn't define who I am or reflect the accomplishments in my life," Monk said. "I'll always be known as a Redskin. That's right," he said, as the crowd roared. "One thing I want to make clear is my identity and security is found in the Lord."
Green often mentioned "my relationship with Jesus Christ," and went on, poignantly, thanking his late parents and then everyone in between two decades of National Football League excellence. It was his father, said Green, the diminutive cornerback (maybe 5 feet 8) from a hamlet of an NAIA college (Texas A&I), who first instilled in his son he was not too small to work his game and dream his athletic dream, when others discouraged him because of his size.
"They said, 'No,' " Green said. "And he said, 'Go.' "
Green's speech also teetered on the emotional, as he spoke of a childhood friend who committed suicide, and of all the people who graced his life and his career.
"If no one gives you an opportunity, it doesn't mean a thing," he said near the end of his speech. He ended with the flourish of a theatrical Baptist minister, saying, with humility, "I belong here because I know what to do with this, with God's visibility."
Thomas's speech was one of the most touching as the 65-year-old former player and coach spoke of his mother dying when he was 8, and how his grandfather came to raise him and instill the values that propelled him in life and sports.
"You're looking at a man that has a lot of blemishes, abrasions and scars dealt to him by life's highs and lows," Thomas said. "But you're also looking at a man who stood tall in the arena, never quit even though it looked like the game was over on many, many occasions."
Thomas called himself an "undrafted free agent country boy from Angleton, Texas," who couldn't believe he was now poised at the summit of the Hall of Fame.
"As you know, I had the pleasure of coaching Art and Darrell in my days as a Redskin," he said as the partisan Redskin crowd roared. "Both of these men overcame my coaching and had successful careers."
As he spoke, the light began to die over Fawcett Stadium, which bellowed with laughter on a near-perfect night in a stadium filled with burgundy and gold and two Washington football icons.