This time the uniform Darrell Green wore was not the familiar burgundy and gold of the Washington Redskins, but a dark blue tailored suit. The challenge he faced was not that of an All-Pro wide receiver, but a group of youngsters in a school auditorium.
"The world is throwing enough punches at you already for you to punch yourselves out by using drugs and alcohol," said Green. "Temptation will always be there, but you have to resist it. You can't let take you away from your goals."
That, in essence, has been the message of Game Plan, a program in which Redskins players visit area junior high schools to talk with students about the responsibilities and challenges awaiting them in life.
Green and fellow Redskins Mark Moseley, Jay Schroeder, Darryl Grant, Charles Mann, Rick Donnalley and Ken Jenkins have been delivering their messages to 50,000 students from 64 junior high schools and 10 school districts in the Washington area.
Game Plan, co-sponsored by the Redskins and Mid Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co., launched its second year March 27, when assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell and the players held a special opening assembly at Franklin Intermediate School in Chantilly.
Player appearances began April 7 and conclude this week.
Before the players address the students, they meet with the school principal to discuss any problems or issues that may be unique to that particular school or community. But the topics carry a few consistent messages: stay in school, avoid drugs and alcohol and develop goals.
"I've wanted to work with kids in this age group for a while," said Green, after addressing approximately 250 students at Garnet-Patterson Junior High on 10th and U streets NW. "I think this age is the best time to reach kids because they're old enough to understand and relate to you, but not so old that they think they know it all.
"By the time a lot of kids get into the 10th, 11th and 12th grades their opinions are already molded. A lot of times they think they know as much as we do, and in some cases, they're right."
Drawing largely from personal experiences and lessons learned on the road from his childhood in Houston to star cornerback in the National Football League, Green established an informal rapport with the youngsters at Garnet-Patterson by speaking not on stage, but at floor level of the auditorium. At 5 feet 8, Green was only slightly taller than many of the students (and shorter than some others), which made him appear like anything but a professional football player.
"I was about your age, in junior high school, when I decided I wanted to be a professional football player," said Green. "But being small, I knew I would have to work that much harder than anyone else if I wanted to reach my goal.
"In the 26 years of my life, I have never used drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. I'm proud of that. I don't think I would have been able to achieve what I have if I had gotten involved in those things."
A similar sentiment was expressed by placekicker Moseley, who spoke at Alice Deal Junior High on Fort Drive and Nebraska Avenue NW the following day.
To the more than 800 Deal students who had assembled to hear him, Moseley cautioned that young people need to prepare for the "realities of life." He spoke candidly to the 12- to 14-year-olds, recounting some tragic episodes of his life and their effect on him and his family. His tone was serious.
"This is an impressionable time for a lot of these kids because they are just realizing the pressures of becoming adults," Moseley said. "Kids today are sharp. They want straight talk and honest answers. We have to show them that we care . . .
"If I can give them a little guidance by sharing some of my experiences with them, it's the least I can do. Hopefully, when the time comes, and they reach a crossroads, they'll make the right decisions."
Deal Principal Reginald Moss said he was "ecstatic" to have Moseley bring Game Plan to the school. He also shared Moseley's faith in the long-term effects of such a program: "You don't often find athletes who are willing to take the time to share life's realities with students."