More than seven months ago, polite conversation with Bobby Mitchell at Redskin Park included who and where he would be scouting that weekend.
"Gonna be going to Syracuse," he said. "Gonna be watching a running back who just might become a great wide receiver. His name is Art Monk. Keep it in mind."
Art Monk has been prominent in football minds for several weeks, although his being the Redskins' first-round choice in the NFL draft yesterday once again showed their inclination to be daring, an immense confidence in their flair for discovering and developing relatively unknown talent.
Wide receiver was their third priority, behind a defensive lineman and a running back. And they defied the safe, traditional drafting method by choosing a player just recently converted to his pro position.
So we should not push to rename RFK Stadium "The Monastery" just yet.
But the Redskins are convinced they have hitched a star to their wagon. They have been following the 6-foot-2, 209 pound Monk with almost monkish devotion ever since that week in September when Mitchell was asked to watch a runner and imagine him as a receiver.
In his mind the afternoon of Sept. 13, Mitchell saw a bit of Charley Taylor and a bit of himself -- and that is the sort of potential impossible to ignore.
Who better to judge the ability of Monk to switch positions than a man who began his NFL career as a great runner and ended it as a great receiver? Ark Monk is coming to Washington almost exactly the way Bobby Mitchell came.
"I was moved to the outside the first day I reported to the Redskins (after being traded by cleveland in 1961)," Mitchell said. "And I didn't know how to catch the football until the week before the first game of the ('62) regular season.
"Only a few runners ever made the switch successfully -- me and Charley Taylor and Lenny Moore were about the best. The problem is how to catch the ball. Lydell Mitchell, for instance, has caught as many passes as anyone in the league lately -- but you couldn't imagine him as a flanker or split end. i
"Most runners coming out of the backfield tend to turn and face the passer, make sure the ball's coming at 'em. Art (as a runner) made a very smooth over-the-shoulder catch. And he loved it. He was not excited running the ball like he was catching it.
"Football wasn't the year-around business like it is today, so all I had to learn the switch was training camp and several exhibition games. And the games are the only way you can learn the timing.
"Norm Snead and I worked by the hour together. You couldn't believe how much he missed me by in the early going. But each week the ball kept coming closer and closer. And the opening game, we killed 'em, and I led the league (with 72 catches for 1,384 yards and 11 touchdowns).
"Art has an advantage I didn't. He can come here early and work with Joe (Theismann). He can go to training camp ready to go. It's just a matter of he and Joe getting used to one another."
"Get him in here and let's get to work," said the Redskins' offensive wizzard, Joe Walton, possible new plays already dancing in his mind.
For trivia fans, the Redskins' first first-round draft choice in 12 years came at 11:39 a.m. By midafternoon, Art Monk was all but handed a starting job. This large and largely untested fellow with limitless potential suddenly became Mr. X.
X is Footballspeak for split end, the position Danny Buggs had until he was traded to Tampa Bay for cornerback Jeris White. Tampa is the repository for receivers the Redskins deem expendable, Frank Grant having been sent there two years ago.
White is said to have enough ability to push Joe Lavender for the right cornerback position. Of course in football, veteran players are the only ones not enthusiastic about Draft Day in the NFL.
Apparently, Monk was the second of two superior wide receivers in the draft. The other was Lam Jones of Texas, who became the second player chosen when the Jets upgraded their position in a two-first-rounders-for-one swap with the 49ers.
When four defensive linemen were taken in the first 10 choices, the Redskins knew they would choose either Monk or a runner. When the Giants opted for a cornerback and the Chiefs for a guard, General Manager Bobby Beathard realized Monk would be available.
Still, there was a dilemma. The best quarterback prospect, Marc Wilson, regarded by many as the second-best player in the country, also might be available to the Redskins. He would be excellent trade bait.
"The kid must be surprised," somebody said to Beathard.
"His agent must be even more surprised," Beathard replied.
But Oakland ended the Wilson intrigue by taking him two picks before Washington. And Beathard's considerable self-confidence was clear during his response to the first question about Monk.
"He's big enough," Beathard said, "to be converted into a defensive end."
No, Beathard quickly added, the Redskins were not that bold.