For years, Martin and Delmar Chesley, the youngest of 10 Chesley children, spent Friday afternoons watching their big brothers wreak havoc on high school football opponents.
"My mother and father would buy us those big lollipops and we'd sit there and watch," said Delmar Chesley, now a 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore linebacker at Anacostia High School. "Sports was just something everyone in our family always participated in. It was the natural thing to do while we were growing up. I don't think we missed a game or a practice while our brothers played."
Delmar and Martin, a 6-4, 208-pound tight end, are two large reasons Anacostia will challenge H.D. Woodson, the defending Interhigh League champion, for the East Division title. According to Anacostia Coach Willie Stewart, both played very well in the Indians' first two games (1-1) and are headed toward successful seasons.
"That's not surprising," said Stewart, who has been either an assistant or head coach to all seven brothers. "All of the brothers before Martin and Delmar were super athletes and always did what was expected of them. They were big, strong, intelligent and never a problem. I'd love to have a few more Chesleys. I'm going to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Chesley about that."
Long before Martin and Delmar put on uniforms, the Chesley name was well known in the Washington area. Not only were the seven boys and three girls fine athletes in a variety of sports, but they were equally talented students.
Twins Walter (tight end) and William (guard) led Eastern to the Interhigh football championship in 1971 and went on to star at Boston College and North Carolina Central, respectively. Walter also was a Rhodes Scholar candidate.
Two years later, Francis Chesley (tight end) was the star and went to Wyoming. Al came next and went on to the University of Pittsburgh. He is now a starting linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. John (tight end), the largest in the family at 6-6 and 237, played at Eastern and Anacostia and is now a junior at Oklahoma State.
The three Chesley girls excelled in academics and sports at Anacostia. Ellen, 23, earned an academic scholarship and graduated from Smith College, Jackie, 22, went into business and Carolyn, 19, is enrolled in computer school.
"We're the last two brothers," said Martin Chesley, Anacostia's top receiver last year. "There was never any pressure on us to play football. We all wanted to. But Mom and Dad laid out one rule -- if we didn't get good grades, we didn't play. Period. Someone is always telling us about doing our work. Our brothers got college scholarships and we want to do the same."
Walter and Agnes Chesley, who still attend practice regularly and take their "babies" home afterward, tolerate neither bad grades nor bad conduct.
"I would guess we've saved a few hundred thousand dollars in college tuition," said Walter Chesley, who is 5-11 and 215, and a former boxer and retired employe with the Metropolitan Police Department. "With 10 kids, it takes hard work and patience. We stressed good grades because kids have to learn to survive in this world. We made sure they understood that."
Agnes Chesley isn't as large but is just as tough as her husband.
"You don't have favorites in the family when you have 10 children," said Mrs. Chesley, a cafeteria aide at Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast Washington. "Everyone is treated the same. We laid down the law early and the kids obeyed. The older boys made sure the younger ones did the right thing. The way things were then, you tried to keep your kids active and out of trouble. That's why we got them interested in sports. And since they enjoyed sports so much, we used that to keep them interested in schoolwork.
"All of the kids, including the three girls, loved football so we would joke about having our own team. We'd use all 10 kids and our dog named Rex for the 11 players, my husband would coach and I'd referee. I think we'd have a good team."
The Chesley brothers have been and still are a college recruiter's delight. Since Walter and William came on the scene, dozens of college scouts have come to D.C. to see the Chesleys play. There was never a question that the boys would be excellent prospects.
"You have to be impressed with all of them," said Oklahoma State Coach Jim Johnson, who coached Al Chesley at Pittsburgh before coming to OSU four years ago. "Knowing how good Al was convinced us to go after John. He was by far our top recruit three years ago. It's hard to compare athletes but John was the fourth-leading receiver in the Big Eight Conference last year with 29 catches, and after two games is the top receiver (nine) in the Big Eight so far. Plus he's a fine blocker and very intelligent. We think he's by far the best tight end in the Big Eight.
"And from what I understand, Martin and Delmar are going to be fine players, too. Oh, yes, we know about them and are keeping a careful, careful eye on both. They will be seeing OSU recruiters often."
There are no traces of jealousy in the Chesley family; the parents have seen to that. Thus, when you ask which brother is the best, the natural answer is Delmar because, as Martin says, "Del is bigger and stronger than any of us were at age 15 and has had the opportunity to listen and benefit from the experience of his six older brothers."
Even Al Chesley, the only one thus far to earn a job in the NFL, agrees.
"Because I'm here (NFL), I have to say I'm the best right now, but all of us have given our football knowledge to Del and that gives him the potential to be a great player," Al Chesley said. "Each brother wanted to be better than the brother before, and each brother encouraged the other to be better. That's the way our mother and father brought us up.
"I'm glad they were stern with me. None of us enjoyed getting whippings because everyone would sit around and watch. So, you didn't do anything wrong. My mom is a hell of a lady but you didn't want to get her mad at you. She could be rough and you paid the cost if you stepped out of line."
The only problems the Chesley brothers and sisters incurred growing up in the tough sections of Northeast and Southeast Washington was getting bathroom time in the house. There were very few problems in the streets.
"It was kind of nice having seven brothers," said Carolyn. "You felt, well . . . safe."
No one on the football field is safe from Martin and Delmar. In fact, Martin isn't even safe from his younger brother.
"I'm a linebacker and I'm supposed to hit the tight end," Delmar said, "Martin included . . . I'm just learning right now. I think I'm a good athlete for my age (15) and Coach Stewart is working hard with me."
"It would be nice to have a couple of more (sons) in the NFL. If it happens, fine. If not, that's okay, too. We're still proud of all of our children," Agnes Chesley said. "You can tell Coach Stewart 10 kids were enough. We're through."