Every Sunday morning, members of the Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church drive from Northern Virginia to 16th and P streets NW, where they conduct a Bible study class for residents in the Triangle House, a teen-age group home.
After one class, a youngster told counselor Larry Jiggetts that a church instructor looked very familiar.
"He should," Jiggetts replied. "That's Joe Gibbs, the Redskin coach."
"No way," said the youngster. "What's Joe Gibbs doing here, teaching us?"
Gibbs was there, helping to lead those classes for five months until the start of training camp last July, because of a pledge he made when he first accepted the Redskin job.
And because of the National Football League players strike, Gibbs was at Triangle House again yesterday morning leading a class. Normally, he would have been with his football team preparing to play the Dallas Cowboys, but these are hardly normal times.
"It's about the only positive thing about the strike," Gibbs said the other day. "At least I've been able to start working again with the kids on Sunday. It's something I really enjoy.
" . . . When I was in Tampa Bay, my church conducted a ministry with a local deliquents' home and I got involved in it and I really enjoyed it. When I came here, I told myself that I really wanted to get involved in something similiar.
"One Sunday, during Sunday school, one of the members said he had some houses in the city and he had contracted to open them up to these teen-agers. He said he'd be willing to try a Bible class on Sunday, if anyone wanted to help.
"It was like an answer to my prayers. We jumped at the chance."
The local houses board teen-agers who are wards of the court. Some have had run-ins with the law. Some are truants. Some have no homes. Gibbs said a few counselors told him "they'd give me $1,000 if the classes lasted more than two weeks. I guess that's what is so great. They are still going on."
In a profession in which some of his peers have been driven to work daily in limousines and others brag about owning 200 suits, Joe Gibbs is unique. But he says he doesn't see anything special about an NFL coach working with inner city youth every week, one reason he has been reluctant to discuss his association with Triangle House.
"I don't want people to think I'm trying to get publicity for myself or tell the world about myself," he said. "The kids may think I really wasn't sincere about it."
Gibbs finally agreed to talk after concluding "it might get people to see the need these kids have. Maybe they'll help give them jobs. That's where I wish I had done more. I saw the need but it's still great. Contributions would help too. Anything would help."
This summer, Gibbs' job search included the Redskins, who employed one of his teen-agers, Maurice Tillar, as a ball boy during the last part of training camp.
Tillar is an extremely quiet youngster who plays the piano well enough to have tried for admission to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He was not a regular at the Bible classes, having attended only a couple. But he said he came to view Gibbs as a friend.
"We chose Maurice to go to camp because if he can get the right help, he can make it in the world," said Don Murphy, a counselor who once tried out for the Redskins as a defensive back and recently was signed with the Washington Federals of the United States Football League. "It's hard to turn your back on anyone if you think they will try to help themselves. I felt the environment would help Maurice and it did. All the kids crowd around him now and want to know what camp was like."
Murphy said he is convinced the classes, which are voluntary and attract five to 16 participants a week, have had an effect on the teen-agers.
"I've seen a change in the kids' attitude," Murphy said. "Their behavior and respect toward one another have changed. They are calmer. They talk about the classes.
"They get so confused, they hear promises but they never see any follow through. But that's what makes Coach Gibbs different. He is sincere and he means what he says. He was there every week, just like he said he would be. And he spoke to them like a friend. He's different from any coach I've seen in the NFL.
"What he does, it's so natural for him. He's an exciting man. The way he explains things to the kids is a gift. They see he is sincere, and that's the only way they'll start to listen. You aren't going to reach everyone, but if a few change, that's good. I told him, 'You are doing (here) what you are supposed to be doing.'"
At first, Gibbs and Rennie Simmons, his best friend who is the Redskins' tight end coach and a member of the Columbia Church, brought game films to class. They thought it would be one way to attract the youngsters and keep their interest.
Within a few weeks, they stopped the films ("we'd look up and many of the kids would be leaving," said Gibbs) and kept the Bible discussions going for an hour or more every session. The teen-agers also responded well to visits by defensive end Dexter Manley, who was raised in Houston's inner city.
"At the beginning, the kids knew that he was with the Redskins and that attracted them," Murphy said. "But the turnover of kids is so great, the Redskin connection had less effect as the weeks went on. There must have been 50 different kids go through one of his classes. They wound up coming through word of mouth, not because of what team Joe Gibbs represents."
Joe Gibbs considers himself a born-again Christian. He also considers his youth work a natural extension of his beliefs.
"It's really rewarding for me," he said. "There is something about getting to know teen-agers that I particularly like.
"They have great personalities. They are really sharp, they don't miss a thing. They just haven't had all the chances we've had. And they undergo a lot of heavy peer pressure at an age when they are making crucial decisions about what they are going to do."
Gibbs and the other instructors tried to show the youngsters how they could use the Bible for guidance in making those decisions. They would study sections of the Bible, give lessons and conduct open discussion periods to explain how religion could ease daily problems.
In return, the teachers also learned.
"A counselor told me that this one youngster, who hardly attended any of the activities, showed up a couple of times at our classes. He didn't talk at all but he took the counselor aside and told him, 'I'm trying to do what they say, but I'm having a tough time.'
"How can that not get to you and tug at your heart?"
Gibbs says it is frustrating at times because his schedule -- at least before the strike -- allows him only six months a year to do his church work. He also dreams of a better way to help the teen-agers.
"Maybe a farm in the country where they could have a complete program, counseling, education, jobs," he said. "The aim would be to get them ready to go out into society and be a useful citizen.
"I can see that happening down the road. I'm going to stay involved."