Together again, Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer played catch on a football field yesterday afternoon. Spiral, wobble.
They looked as good as, if not better than, ever. As Jurgensen said, even when they played there wasn't "a good body between us."
The two old pros were teaching eager high school prospects the art of the forward pass at the Sonny Jurgensen-St. Stephen's football camp, a three-hour-a-day, five-day program being held for the second spring at the school in Alexandria. Both Jurgensen and Kilmer do their classroom and field teaching gratis. Sleepy Thompson, St. Stephen's athletic director, calls it "Sonny's contribution to our school," which Jurgensen's son, Eric, attends. As for Kilmer, Jurgensen said, "I called him and he said, 'Hey, I'll be there.' "
They looked as happy as the day the Redskins beat the Cowboys to win the National Football Conference in 1972. It was low-key instruction, and the 55 young players from the area appreciated it. "I thought Mr. Jurgensen would be more an attraction than a participant," said Chris Brown, who will be a senior at Sidwell Friends next fall. "He works up a sweat. That surprised me. The same for Billy Kilmer."
"Quick, quick. Way to go, cut it loose," called Jurgensen to a player.
"You hurry your steps, but you don't hurry your throw," Kilmer told another.
Kilmer, 45, may be a little grayer than when he played for the Redskins but, "I think I'm lighter than when I played. I came up here last year pushing 250 and I just felt bad. I went on a diet, now I'm around 200."
Kilmer is in the process of moving from Dallas, where he had worked for Clint Murchison in marketing, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a real estate business. He's in thoroughbred breeding, and likes to golf. Coaching, on a more permanent basis than this week, never interested him. "For me, it's a little too confining," he said.
He and Jurgensen have memories of four years on the Redskins together, 1971 through '74, when Jurgensen retired.
Said Jurgensen, now 50: "(Joe) Theismann came in and said, 'If I can't play in front of those two old guys, something's wrong.' We said, 'Well, there's not a good body between us, but we're going to stay on the field some way.' "
In June, Jurgensen and Kilmer will be meeting again, in Hawaii, where every year old quarterbacks gather like returning swallows. They play golf and swap stories.
Sometimes it might have been tough on Jurgensen or Kilmer when, eager to play, he had to watch the other on the field. That was when much of Washington was crying either "I want Sonny" or "I want Billy," even on bumper stickers. But both say they were team men first.
"We knew we were about at the end of our careers," said Kilmer. "We wanted to win, and we helped each other. Sonny and I, through our rapport, didn't split the team."
Yesterday, Jurgensen and Kilmer were as good as any two instructors could be with the young athletes, who in turn brightly pumped them for knowledge. "They're enthusiastic," said Kilmer, "they want to learn. They listen. This is fun."
And Jurgensen: "I told them the first day, when I was a kid we threw rocks at street lights. That's how you throw a football, like you were throwing a rock . . . They read books that say, stand tall in the pocket. Then they get the ball up here by the ear and they start pushing the ball. You've got to be natural, you've got to be yourself.
"You know, quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes."