This week when Virginia state Del. W.R. (Buster) O'Brien announced his candidacy for state attorney general, his campaign biography prominently noted that the Republican had played professional football for the Washington Redskins, the San Francisco 49ers and the Ottawa Roughriders.
Spokesmen for each of the three pro teams said yesterday that O'Brien may have fumbled the facts.
Yes, he tried out at training camps. Yes, he wore the uniforms. Yes, he got a few paychecks. And, yes, he did make it to one team's reserve squad.
But, no, "Nobody remembered him taking a snap from center," said Redskins spokesman Charley Taylor.
"He was signed and invited to try out," said Taylor, a former Redskin wide receiver. "I don't want to crucify him, but is he a former Redskin? What is your definition? He never played a regular season game."
The public information director for the Ottawa Roughriders in the Canadian Football League said O'Brien's career with them 15 years ago was just as short-lived -- he may have entered training camp, but "this Mr. O'Brien never played a regular season game with us."
The closest O'Brien came to playing with the pros was his taxi squad days with the 49ers -- a reserve, nonplaying slot in which O'Brien said he spent a year. "He saw no action," said 49er spokesman Jerry Walker. "The taxi squad player does not play but is paid by the club."
"I consider myself a player on those teams," O'Brien, a member of the House of Delegates since 1980, insisted in a telephone interview from his Virginia Beach law office. "I was with the teams, I was under contract, I received money," he said. "I guess it's a case of semantics. I never made any pretention of being any great athlete or a star anyplace. It concerns me to have my integrity impugned.
"I don't think the fact that I played football or didn't play football . . . has a bearing on whether I'd be a good attorney general," said O'Brien, who was a high school football star in Virginia Beach.
But, there it is, the first paragraph of his official "Biography of W.R. (Buster) O'Brien:"
"Born in 1946, Buster O'Brien attended Princess Anne High School, where he was recognized as an all-American quarterback, receiving a full scholarship to Notre Dame and the University of Richmond. Buster went on to play professional football for the San Francisco 49ers, Ottawa Roughriders and the Washington Redskins."
"I didn't do that," O'Brien said of the biography. "That was done by somebody else. I didn't even see that when it went out. It was done by campaign people."
The Redskins' Taylor says there are probably hundreds of would-be 'Skins out there playing football with the facts.
"Last year 110 players started in Carlisle Pa., the team's training camp ," said Taylor. "When we got down to the final 40, there were 70 players you won't find on the rolls. I'm sure they're gonna tell their grandkids and everyone else that they were a Redskin. It's all a matter of semantics and technicalities."