Art Monk had to wait until the third night of training camp to understand and unique status enjoyed by the Redskins' No. 1 draft choice.

"Okay, No. 1," Monk was told while finishing off dinner at the club's training table. "Since you were drafted first, we'll let you start off. Stand up on your chair and sing your college fight song."

So Art Monk, the man with the million-plus contract, became the leadoff act for the Redskins' annual rookie singalong.

"We don't have a fight song at Syracuse," he pleaded to his teammates, "at least I don't know it." Instead, Monk snapped off a horrid version of "There Was a Crooked Man," much to the mock digust of the veterans producing the show.

"I don't know which Art does worse, sing or dress," quaterback Kim Quilken said, shaking his head. "I call him G.Q for Gentleman's Quarterly. The man just has no clothes at all. It's awful."

Through it all, Monk only laughed. If the veterans are looking for a sign of stubbonness in their new teammate, it didn't come out. There is no chip on his shoulder, no rebellious streak waiting to lash out.

"His personality might be tailor-made for being a No. 1 choice," Joe Walton, offensive coordinator, said. "He works hard, he keeps his mouth shut, he never slacks off and, darn it, he's got great ability. And the veterans know it."

As the club's first No. 1 draft choice in 11 years, Monk has been the focus of much attention during the first week of camp, overshadowing even Captain Bubbly himself, quaterback Joe Theismann.

But while onlookers may have been gawking over this new pehnom, Redskin players and coaches have been looking at him in a different way.

Would he work hard, no matter what the conditions, or would he ride that lucrative contract and his almost assured spot on the final squad through these early dog days?

"I'm sure he's been under scrutiny by everyone," running back Buddy Hardeman said. "But I'll tell you this, the shoe fits. Anything that is said about his personality or ability is true.

"If he came in here as No. 1 and was a total jerk, that would be one thing.

But he hasn't. He's been low key and he's worked hard. Quite frankly, he doesn't seem like a No. 1 draft choice. He's been more or less accepted by everyone."

Only when Monk is running a pass pattern does it become apparent he is a gifted prospect. Otherwise, he is so quiet and easy-going, so affable and cooperative, it hardly seems he has an ego, much less a balloon-sized head.

But put him in pads, send his 6-foot-3, 210-pound body down field and have one of the Redskin quarterbacks toss him a pass and the thoroughbred appears with stunning quickness.

"It's his hands," McQuilken said. "The way the ball is near him and you say, 'There is no way he can get to that one,' and suddenly he reaches out and pulls it in."

Monk's hands are like Spiderman's webs. They zap passes everywhere on the field and under every imaginable condition. During his short time in camp, he has shown he can catch in traffic or on the run or over the middle, where Redskin receivers have sometimes feared to tread lately.

"He is destined for greatness," McQuilken said. "But he also has a lot to learn. The key is to bring him along slowly; don't expect too much too fast. One thing that is good, though. He has shown a willingness to learn. He realizes he doesn't know all the answers."

Monk says amen to that. Any over-inflated thoughts he had about his receiving ability disappeared with his initial exposure to the Redskin play-passing system.

"In college," Monk said, "I could go out an run and catch the ball, sort of ad-lib it. Here, things are done to timing. Otherwise, you get bad passes.

"I know I can catch the ball, but it's going to take time for me to be a good receiver on this level. It's the difference between being a pro and an amateur. I'm 50 percent there now. On a scale of one to 10, give me a five."

Walton, the Redskins offensive mastermind, and Monk talked about things besides football before coming to camp, Walton, the former Giant star, has seen many No. 1s start off at camp on the wrong foot. He advised Monk to do his job, keep his poise and just be himself. "Art knows he'll get ribbed, it's natural. But he can take it," Walton said.

"Hey, when he laughs and smiles, how can you resent him? The man is intelligent. He knows which end is up. If he performs, the veterans will love him."

The full measure of Monk's affability will be tested next week when the bulk of the veterans appear in camp. But by then, the word certainly will be out: this man can play.

"I hope that's the case," Monk said while relaxing in a dorm lounge. "No one has treated me differently than I would expect, nor do I feel any different just because I'm a No. 1 pick.

"I'm trying to take it all in stride. If a guy came in here with a big mouth, it would tick me off, too. I've always been low key and I don't get too excited about things.

"They tease me, they call me No. 1 and some of the guys have kidded me about financing a car for them. In genral, everyone has been super nice. I think they've gone out of their way to be friendly and to help me if they could. That's all I can ask."

Monk has a full but short beard that dominiates his face. In a T-shirt and Syracuse warm-up pants, he looks like every other young, tired rookie recovering from the strain of two-a-day workouts and hours of film watching.

He laughs easily, even at himself, but he also obviously has spent considerable time analyzing his role on his team -- and his role among his peers.

"I don't know very many people. I'm very quiet, I don't say very much," Monk said. "I like to sit and observe and watch what's going on. I like to see how people react and what their personalities are.

"I like to go to parties and to dance but I'm not an aggressive person. I just don't like loud people, maybe because I like to be quiet.

"I didn't come in here thinking I knew everything about my job. I'm learning and I want to keep learning. I figured I better work hard and keep my mouth shut and do my job.

"If people are watching me, I'm not that aware of it. I don't feel any added pressure from it. It doesn't do me any good to worry about what others think. I can't change who I am."

There are no outward signs that Monk's $200,000 signing bonus has altered his life sytle. He is waiting for delivery of a new Mercedes and he wants to purchase a house for his mother after the season. Beyond that, the money is being used to earn more money reflecting Monk's conservative style.

Likewise, his major hobby, photography, allows him to work in solitude. He wants to put a darkroom in his house so he can start purchasing more exotic equipment and develop his own film creations.

"One of the first things that strikes you about Art is his maturity," Coach Jack Pardee said. "He seems to have a purpose in life and he goes about it in a serious fashion."

Pardee, who gushes every time he talks about Monk, said his prize prospect "hasn't disappointed me in anything he has done. He keeps getting better and better.

"He blends in so nicely. There are no peaks and valleys with him. So he becomes just like everyone else, which is good for him. It reduces the pressure. We don't want to put any undue pressure on him but he's helped himself by the way he has approached things."

And Pardee sees a certain resourcefulness in Monk.

"The days it was really hot here, he never changed," Pardee said. "He never broke stride. He was hardly breathing hard, even though he was working like everyone else. You like to see that in a young player. Their concentration sometimes isn't the best, but his, so far, has been impressive."

But even after the joy of the draft and his enormous contract, of his early success in camp, Monk still isn't thoroughly convinced this is all happening to him. He describes it "as a dream that just didn't seem possible a few years ago."

When he was a freshman at Syracuse, he was unhappy with the school, with football and with life in general. A pro football career seemed out of the question. But that changed with maturity and some basic determination, the same qualities that seem to be pulling him through those pressurized days.

Monk realized the worst is still ahead. Redskin fans will expect production from this man who has been compared to Charley Taylor. Even though he is far from being in Taylor's class as a receiver, the expectations created by the draft have left him in a tenuous situation.

"If I go out there for the first few games and I'm doing the best I can and it's not good enough for them and I'm really nervous and not catching the ball, it won't help things if they get on me," he said. "I honestly don't expect to come in and start. I just want to get this year behind me, so I know what to expect and how to prepare in future years.

"I know I can catch the ball. I know I can play on this level. It's just a matter of time and learning what I can do. But I've always had to fight nervousness. I get nervous when I do anything. This won't be any different. I just can't let it affect my performance."

He also realizes he now must live with the stereotypes of his profession, that it's an easy job consisitng of 90 percent glory and 10 percent perspiration. Friends who have desk jobs already have told him how they wish they could change places with him.

"I have to laugh at that," he said. "I love football and I want to work very hard to make myself as good as I can be. But it's hard work. Training camp, in this kind of heat, is hell. Trying to straighten out all these plays and patterns in your mind isn't easy, either. You've got to push yourself to get up the level people expect of me."

That's why, when Monk receives the full wrath of Walton's coaching temper in practice -- just as any unsure rookie does -- he absorbs the verbal blows without comment. The Redskins clearly are not treating him any differently from the other first-year players and free agents.

"The worst thing anyone could do is to give him some special treatment," Hardeman said. "The vets would jump all over that. But he's like any other rookie, just a heck of a lot better than most.

"Now, if he could only learn how to sing."