Clint Didier is a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end who runs 40 yards in 4.6 seconds, jumps well enough that he once dislodged part of a ceiling with his head and catches passes so consistently that he probably has the best hands of any Redskins receiver.
An astute draft choice by General Manager Bobby Beathard?
"Not really," Beathard said. "We got him by accident."
If not for some investigative work two years ago by Coach Joe Gibbs, Washington would not have even considered signing Didier as a free agent, much less picking him on the 12th round in 1981.
Gibbs first saw Didier during a predraft workout with Portland State quarterback Neil Lomax. The guy catching most of the passes that day was Didier, Lomax's favorite college target--as a wide receiver. Gibbs didn't know there was another prospect at the school, but after Didier ran a 4.65 40 for him, Gibbs pulled Lomax aside.
"Who is that guy?" Gibbs asked. Lomax told him about Didier's receiving capabilities (118 receptions, 1,963 yards, 18 touchdowns in two years) and about how the wide receiver had increased his weight in four months from 215 to 240, hoping the pros would consider him for tight end. Ironically, Gibbs came away from that workout more impressed with Didier than Lomax.
"We knew it was a long-term project, but with Clint's talent, you figured it was worth a chance," Beathard said. "He just wasn't fast and nifty enough to make it as a wide receiver on this level. But he was willing to work to change himself into a tight end."
Beathard hardly took a major gamble in selecting Didier on the 12th round and he stuck around only after severely pulling a hamstring and being placed on injured reserve for a year. That's when he first started grasping the intricacies of his new position.
"You have to remember that Clint had never lined up in a three-point stance in tight along the line of scrimmage," said Warren Simmons, Redskins tight end coach. "He was a wide receiver his whole life. He had to learn how to block and learn how to run patterns from an entirely different position."
Didier worked diligently last year to increase both his strength and speed. He is now 25 pounds heavier than he was in college, and he is faster, as measured by his improved 40 time. At the team's May minicamp, he had the best overall physical test results with a 33 inch vertical jump (28 is considered good for a man his size), a team record 33 feet 9 inch standing triple jump, an 11.2 second shuttle run (normally a time turned in by cornerbacks and receivers) and a best-ever 4.59 in the 40.
"I was really excited after the minicamp," Didier said. "After being hurt and all, I thought maybe this would be my year."
The Redskins, who really hadn't counted on Didier that much, shared his excitement. In Gibbs' two tight end offense, one tight end is used heavily as a motion man, getting a running start before heading upfield. That's the role Kellen Winslow fills so well with San Diego. It's also the role that Didier could fill this season with the Redskins.
Rick Walker, with help from Terry Metcalf, was the main motion man last year. The Redskins would like more consistency and more deep receptions from this position, and will spend this camp looking closely at both Didier and rookie Mike Williams, the fifth-round choice from Alabama A & M.
"Right now, if you were scouting Clint in college, he'd be almost ideal for what we are looking for at tight end," Beathard said. "It's hard not to get too excited about him, even this early in camp. He could really give a boost to our offense, the way Joe relies so much on his tight ends."
First, though, Didier has to convince Simmons that he can block on this level.
"I never really wanted to block before," said Didier, who was a 6-4, 165-pound wide receiver in high school. "I went to Portland State (from Columbia Basin Junior College) because I could catch the ball there, and not block. Moving to tight end was a real shock. I didn't know what I was doing, I was hesitant and it showed in my blocking.
"Now I have more confidence. I'm stronger and things are coming easier. But it's still a different game. At wide receiver, you had to worry about beating a cornerback. At tight end, you have a linebacker sitting on your head, waiting to smash you, then you have to see where the defensive end is and the defensive back. After all that, you can start really running your route."
But those who know Didier best learned long ago not to doubt his tenacity or his assertiveness.
Didier once said he could jump up and hit the locker room ceiling with his head. Wayne Sevier, the special teams coach, said he couldn't. Didier put on a hat, leaped and knocked off one of the slats of the suspended ceiling.
He showed up uninvited at that workout with Gibbs and Lomax. He knew Lomax wanted him to catch passes and he also knew the Redskins would never ask him to try out. But he acted so confidently that Gibbs says he assumed "Clint was scheduled to be there right along. He introduced himself to me but I didn't recognize his name and I was too embarrassed later to ask him."
"I had to be aggressive," Didier said. "If I didn't tag along with Neil, I would never have gotten noticed by anyone. The United (Scouting) Combine had given me a 6.5 rating (low for a wide receiver). That's because I ran a 4.9 40 indoors for the scouts. My chances of being drafted weren't very good after that.
"I don't think Neil expected me to be around for a whole season last year," Didier said. "You could tell by his voice. I wonder what his reaction will be if I can make it all the way this year?"
Quarterback Joe Theismann arrived at training camp six days earlier than required because, believe it or not, he says he actually enjoys the drudgery of two-a-day workouts and endless meetings.
"I use training camp to get mentally ready," said Theismann, who has a new $1.5 million, four-year contract. "I don't find camp to be boring at all. It puts me in the right frame of mind for the season.
"I know I didn't have to come in early, but usually I report with the rookies anyway. I was anxious to get going."
Theismann says he isn't in top condition after taking off most of June. Usually he is among the best-conditioned Redskins.
"I needed a break after minicamp and I pulled back from some of the physical work," he said. "That's another good reason to be here. I can work out a lot and make sure I'm ready when everyone else shows up."
The Redskins are trying to locate lineman Fred Dean to ask him to report to camp earlier than he expected. Dean originally had been told to come in with the veterans Saturday, but now the team wants him to start working out immediately. The problem is, team officials can't find him . . . Two more cuts: receivers Kirk Wilson and Frank Carr . . . Tackle Donald Laster hurt an eye in the morning workout and stayed out of contact work this afternoon . . . Quarterback Tom Flick is hobbling on a slightly sprained ankle.