After it was sold for drug money, lawyer retrieved Dexter Manley's Super Bowl ring

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2010


For almost 10 years, Dexter Manley asked his friend and benefactor the same question any retired NFL gladiator with gnarled fingers here this week would demand to know: "What happened to my Super Bowl ring?"

John O'Quinn stalled at first -- and then lied.

O'Quinn told the former defensive end that the showy championship ring he won as a Washington Redskin on Jan. 30, 1983, had been given to Manley's wife, Lydia, for safekeeping.

When Lydia told her husband, "You know I don't have it, Dexter," O'Quinn hid the ring, where no one could ever pawn it for drug money again.

"Part of me had a resentment," Manley says now. "I'd be clean for nine months and say, 'Where is it?' and O'Quinn would say, 'I gave it to your wife,' and we kept going back and forth until I would just forget for a while.

"Another part of me knew why he did it and understood that that might have been one of his greatest gifts to me."

The ring was first given to a big-eyed pass rusher for his efforts in crumpling David Woodley, causing the Dolphins quarterback to fumble almost 30 years ago, the night the Redskins won Super Bowl XVII, the franchise's first. It went on to symbolize the depths one man could fall.

John O'Quinn never played in a Super Bowl. But as one of the nation's most prominent trial attorneys in Manley's home town of Houston, the flamboyant millionaire shared the player's hyper-competitiveness, his life and career as frenetic as the 6-foot-3, 250-pound man he called "Dex" through his South Texas twang. O'Quinn had gone almost two decades without losing a case when he met the former Redskins player through another attorney in the mid-1990s.

At the time of their meeting, Manley was trying to "beat the beast," the addiction to cocaine that led to a lifetime banishment from the NFL in 1991. After crack cocaine brought Manley back home to Houston, after he began treating rehab centers as if they were musical chairs, unsuccessfully jumping from one to the next, he got the gumption to ask O'Quinn for a job in 1998.

Manley, O'Quinn knew, could not read until he was 30 years old, an indictment of the college sports machine more concerned with performance on the field than in the classroom. O'Quinn hired him on good faith at the prominent firm he founded. Manley flourished as a researcher and was eventually given his own office on the firm's main floor.

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