For most of the Redskins, the visit to New Jersey to play the New York Giants was just another trip to a strange place to play before a hostile crowd.
But for Frank Grant, the swift wide receiver, the opener was something more. It was a chance to go home, to visit friends, relatives and his old high school coach, who says of his former student, "There's only one person responsible for what that man has done with his life and that's Frank, himself."
"If you knew where he came from, what his background was, you'd know what I'm talking about," said Bert Nanhoff, Grant's football coach at East Side High in Newark and now a guidance counselor at a suburban school in northern New Jersey.
"He came from a tough neighborhood. He was raised primarily by his aunt. And he every easily could have gone the wrong way. I don't really know why he made it and so many of the people he went to school with didn't. But I do know Frank was always determined to succeed. I know that's the same cliche you always hear.But in this case, it's the truth."
That determination showed up early, because Manhoff once told Grant, then a puny 140-pound freshman, that he was simply too small to play high school football.
"I had never played any organized football before that," Grant recalled yesterday. "We'd just play games in the park against other neighboringhoods. Oh yeah, it was definitely tackle, none of that touch stuff.
"We'd come out there with homemade helmets and shoulder pads. It didn't matter how many guys played. We'd go with four, five, 11, 12. We'd rip off bags of flour and line the field, and we usually had the big games after the pro games were over on Sunday.
You'd just go out there and try to imitate somebody you'd seen on TV. We had no coaches or plays. It was usually 'awright you guys, on two everybody go deep,' that kind of thing."
"When they told me I couldn't play freshman ball, I was really down, crushed.
So Grant went out for basketball, instead, and made enough of an impression on Manhoff to earn a spot on the football team the following year. For three years, he played cornerback, halfback and fullback.
"When I graduated, I had to go and try out for a scholarship. Mr Manhoff had a friend at Southern Colorado, and he got them to take a chance on me. I was only about 160 pounds, and they told me they'd let me try out.
"So I went out on a trial basis. I'll never forget it. I flew out there two weeks before school started and the plane drops me off in this desolate place. Here I am, never even been away from the city, and I'm out in Colorado.
"Then the guy who picks me up at the airport says to me 'Son, it's gonna, be rough, you'll be the smallest man on the team. I said to myself, 'oh no, here we go again.' But what the hell, I'm here, I might as well give it a chance."
Grant eventually won a starting position as a cornerback then switched to wide receiver his junior year. Before his college career at Peblo had ended, he set several school records, was a nationally ranked sprinter and long jumper and was named to a Little All-America football team.
Grant was drafted on the 13th round by the Redskins in 1972 and he still vividly remembers the day he believes he convinced Coach George Allen he could play with the professionals.
"We had a scrimmage in training camp against New England," he recalled. "They had a pretty good cornerback named John Outlaw, and I guess you could say he helped me make the team. I just caught some deep patterns on him. I looked pretty good, to tell you the truth. I think I showed 'em I belonged that day."
Surely no one will dispute that now. Last year, despite seeing constant double and occasional triple coverage, Grant was able to catch 50 passes in his first full season at the position.
And now, with Charley Taylor back in the lineup drawing some of that coverage, Grant is looking for an even more productive season.
Last year Grant worked in a program sponsored by the Department of Commerce to help underprivileged youngsters find jobs.
"I really do feel athletes have a responsiblity to get involved in the community," he said. "When I look back on my life, I know I've been very lucky, and I know I've worked hard for everything I've got. And I'll continue to do that work. I also had a lot of help."