Don King won't have to take his boxing talent search to Redskin training camp. Larry Holmes can stop worrying about a new challenger. And Howard Cosell won't be saying, "the Pugnacious Pugilist from Pittsburgh."
Mark May finally has stopped fighting.
After one of the most bizarre starts of any rookie in club history, May, the Redskins' second first-round pick in 13 years, apparently has retired, at least temporarily, from boxing Redskin teammates.
The chip he brought into camp is gone. It now appears May, who is 6-foot-6, 267 pounds, has other priorities than his battlefield honor: an unexpected shot at becoming the starting left offensive tackle.
"I was being tested when I first came in, no doubt about it," May said today after the morning practice. "The veterans wanted to see what I was made of, if I could take it, if I could stand up under the pressure.
"They wanted to see if I would let them down if we got into a third and one at the goal line. Do I have any guts? I expected it to happen."
May says he felt like "Texas. You know, all eyes were on me. Being a first-rounder and all, I was supposed to crush someone on evey block and never make a mistake.The pressure was pretty intense at first. But I think a lot of that has stopped now. Things have eased up. I'm much more relaxed."
May is polished and smooth beyond his years, a well-spoken, bright man determined to parlay his special skills (he was the Outland Trophy winner his senior year) into a successful career both on and off the field. But he was tossed into a cauldron of pressure here that boiled out of his control.
"He's always had a lot of confidence in himself," said fellow rookie Russ Grimm, a four-year Pittsburgh teammate. "He was very individualistic. It was like, 'You don't bother me, I won't bother you.' He's the type of guy who can be very friendly, who everyone likes, but he has that little thing where you can't get real close to him. He'll make the rounds with everyone, and not just with a certain clique.
"Whatever he does, he seems to come out on top.There used to be a lot of fights during practices at Pitt.When things got really bad, the coaches would give the guys gloves in the locker room and put them on their knees and let them settle it. No one challenged Mark very much."
All first-round draft choices, especially those who, like May,enter camp after a long, highly publicized contract dispute with the club, are given special attention by their teammates. It's part of football's unwritten code.
Some No. 1s, such as Art Monk, keep quiet and float through camp, hardly causing a ripple of controversy. Others, however, decide it's important to establish their territory and not let the veterans consider them easy touches.
May took the latter line, getting into a shoving match almost as soon as he put on his Redskin uniform.
"I thought about what my reception would be like," May said. "My attorney (Ralph Cindrich) told me to go in, keep my mouth shut, play 100 percent and don't be a bully. But you have to stand up for yourself. If I was to let everyone push me around and take advantage of me, I wouldn't have anyone's respect. Then I'd be in a fight every day."
So when May thought veteran Fred Cook, who also was making his Redskin practice debut, pushed once too many times in a blocking drill, he pushed back. Cook retaliated and the two had to be separated. Later, they again had a difference of opinion and Cook invited the rookie to meet him afterward in the parking lot. No such meeting occurred.
In the ensuing days, May found himself wrestling with defensive tackle Rich Dimler and middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz.But since last Wednesday, May, whose favorite hobby is fishing, has reserved his right uppercuts for the blocking sled.
"We both were trying to get off to a fast start and one thing led to another," Cook said. "But that is straightened out now. We're good friends. He reminds me of the Jets' Marvin Powell. He's going to be a good one. He has good feet and he's strong and he wants to play."
May, said one veteran defender, "had a chip on his shoulder when he came in here. That was pretty obvious to the veterans. But it's a long camp. No one is prejudging him. If he can play, he'll be accepted."
And that, ultimately, is the bottom line. Can Mark May, now known to his teammates simply as "No. 1," play well enough to warrant his large contract and unique draft status?
"No doubt about it," said Coach Joe Gibbs. "We had questions about his ability to play the left side, but those are disappearing now. He's a player."
Oh yes, the left side. That was part of May's early camp problem, too.At the only minicamp he attended, he had difficulty at left tackle after spending his football life at right tackle. The Redskins, who had counted on him to replace Terry Hermeling on the left side, quietly revised their plans. May would return to right tackle, as George Starke's backup, while receiving some work at the left side.
"I saw where I was considered a bust," May said, smiling broadly. "I didn't think I played that badly, considering the position was new and the techniques we were using were new. I decided to work extra hard building up my left side during weight training. And I'd practice blocking from the left. When I got here, I wanted a shot at the left side. It was a challenge."
May's chance came when Jerry Scanlan, who was the left tackle at the start of training camp, injured his leg. The Redskins had little choice but to alter their thinking once more and force-feed May while Scanlan healed. Now Scanlan apparently will have to win back his job.
"You can see what kind of player Mark is when he gets into a game-type situation," Joe Bugel, the line coach, said. "He works so well with other players, much better than when he's one on one. Now that he is teamed with Grimm (who has replaced the injured Fred Dean) at guard, we've got a pretty good marriage going on the left side."
Being paired with Grimm, who was drafted on the third round to play either center or guard, has helped May. He knows Grimm's mannerisms and he feels comfortable playing alongside him, although both sometimes accidentally fall into Pittsburgh blocking assignments.
"Russ and I are good friends, but he's a crazy guy," May said. "I lived in the same dorm with him for one year and it was my worst one academically. There was always something going on, a party or hearts game. I had to move into another dorm my senior year, where they had single rooms, to get my grades up."
With a starting job as incentive May is making fewer mistakes in practice now -- "I'm getting three of every five plays right instead of one of five" -- and his life has brightened accordingly. Maybe that's why his fists have gone into hibernation.
"I finally can smile a little bit on the field" he said. "And that is a big relief."