What is a Redskin fan doing in the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line? It sounds like a John Le Carre plot, except that Greg Brown resembles a mountain more than a mole.
Brown, a product of H.D. Woodson High School, will be trying to add Joe Theismann's jersey to his collection of Redskin memorabilia Sunday in Philadelphia.
"I'm going to do my job on Sunday, but I'm still a Redskin fan," Brown said. "I'm kind of disappointed the way they've started out."
There is no disappointment about the way Brown has begun his rookie season with the Eagles, however. He received two game balls on opening day, for sacking New York Giant quarterback Phil Simms twice and for outstanding play on the special teams.
"I guess they figured that me being a rookie and a free agent and I'm in there doing the job, I deserved some recognition," Brown said. "And sacking the quarterback means a lot. They take a lot of pride in that."
The two balls did not go on the mantel of the apartment in Clementon, N.J., where the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Brown is staying with his wife and Greg Jr. It was not because they were non-Redskin souvenirs but because they were earmarked elsewhere by Brown: one to his mother in Washington and the other to John Teerlink, the defensive line coach at Eastern Illinois.
Teerlink was honored as a man who kept his word. If not for that, Brown would still be earning $10.50 an hour on a construction job in the District, his employment status five months ago.
"One day I was coming home from work and I ran into him," Brown said. "He told me he would try to get me a trial somewhere. He thought I could make it, that it was just a matter of getting my foot in the door."
Teerlink was acquainted with Chuck Clausen, the Eagles' defensive line coach, and he called Clausen, who, with Coach Dick Vermeil's approval, offered Brown a contract. Brown, who then weighed 220, attended a minicamp in May, where he impressed the Eagle staff with his natural ability, if not his size.
"I came up for a visit and they offered me a free-agent contract, but they thought I was a little too small to play defensive end," Brown said. "At the minicamp, the coach told me I had great possibilities, that the only thing holding me back was my weight. I worked very hard and got up to 233 by the time camp started in July."
Brown worked very hard in camp, too. Given an opportunity on the special teams in exhibition play, Brown was involved in seven tackles on eight kickoff returns by New Orleans.
The rest of the pieces fell in place when Thomas Brown, the only Brown with a biography in the Eagle press guide -- Greg has two lines -- was traded to Cleveland and Dennis Harrison suffered a knee injury. With No. 1 draft choice Leonard Mitchell still recovering from foot surgery, Brown was assigned defensive-end duties in passing situations. He responded with his assault on Simms and he applied considerable heat to Buffalo's Joe Ferguson last week.
"Mitchell was on crutches at the minicamp and I didn't even know they had a No. 1 draft in the defensive line until I got home," Brown said. "I guess the Eagles weren't the best place for a free agent to try to break in, but I had no choice. St. Louis called last year and got some information and said they'd call back, but they never did, so when I got a chance with the Eagles I just took it. I didn't think about who else they had."
For Brown to get an opportunity at all was remarkable. After graduating from Woodson in 1977, he went to Kansas State, where he played as a freshman, then left the following fall because the school was being investigated for NCAA rules violations. He moved on to Eastern Illinois, where a former Woodson coach had taken an assistant's job, but stayed only one semester before heading home. Married in high school, he had more important things on his mind.
"I left to go home for Christmas and I got a job in D.C. doing construction instead of going back," Brown said. "I had to feed my family. I guess that would have been the end of the line if this hadn't come up. Now I hope to go back to college and learn to be an interior designer."
Brown made another journey back to Washington last weekend, where friends greeted him with copies of Friday's Washington Post. A photograph showed Brown, the Eagles' No. 98, bearing down on Ferguson as Philadelphia won its third straight game Thursday night.
"I got a lot of lip about the Skins from my friends," Brown said. "I think everybody must have seen that picture. I just told them they'd be seeing a lot more of me next Sunday."
Does Brown ever sit down and think about the good fortune that altered his headgear from hard hat to helmet?
"Yeah, I think about it all the time," he said. "It's a million-to-one shot."