Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green is convinced he is headed for cult status in the National Football League. At 5 feet 8 and 170 pounds, he is going to become a mini-Fridge. Of this, he is quite certain.
Late last month, Green beat the three swiftest receivers in the league -- Phillip Epps, Ron Brown and Willie Gault -- in consecutive 60-yard dashes in the California desert to win a new title: the NFL's Fastest Man.
Next, he is convinced, come the commercials, the money and the autograph sessions. "I want to get some things going because of this," Green said.
Could the book and the movie, the '88 Olympics and a larger role in the Redskins' attack be far behind?
"I'm going to get national acclaim for this," Green said last week as he got ready for a more routine event, Redskins minicamp, which begins today at Redskin Park. "I mean on a large scale. Well, at least larger than the national acclaim I got as a defensive back."
Fighting off a 24-hour virus, as well as the widespread belief that the fastest defensive back couldn't run down the fastest wide receiver, Green won the $20,000 first prize (put up, appropriately enough, by Sprint Telephone Service) when he blew past Gault, an international hurdles champion and former Olympic sprinter, in the final.
"From the second step, I didn't see him again," Green said of Gault, the Chicago receiver who was the No. 1 seed in the event at Palm Desert, Calif., which will be shown on NBC-TV in August.
A 10.08-second 100-meter man at Texas A&I, Green ran his three 60-yard races in 6.09, 6.11 and 6.12. That's an average of 10 yards a second.
"I am the fastest man in the NFL," Green said. "Without a doubt. Quote me. I can outrun all the defensive linemen, I can outrun all the linebackers, I can outrun all the quarterbacks, I can outrun all the running backs, I can outrun all the coaches, I can outrun all the trainers, I can outrun all the ladies working upstairs in the offices, I can outrun all the general managers, I can outrun all the owners . . . I've said it before, but no one believed me. Now I have the proof."
The Redskins have the proof now, too. Ever since they chose Green in the first round of the 1983 draft, they have wondered how much -- and where -- they should use him. A starting cornerback since his rookie season, he dabbled in returning punts his first two years, running back a total of six for an average of seven yards per return.
Last year, in the final 2 1/2 games of the season, things changed. When regular punt returner Ken Jenkins dislocated his shoulder, Green went into high gear. He returned 16 punts for an average of 13.4 yards. In two consecutive games, he had two long returns for touchdowns nullified by penalties.
Then came the coup de grace: offense. In the last game, at St. Louis, Green lined up at wingback, took a handoff from quarterback Jay Schroeder on a reverse and gained six yards before coming out of the game.
"If we're having a tough time in a game, we'll try him," Coach Joe Gibbs said then.
Flushed with his recent success in the desert, Green said he would like to try playing more on offense, particularly at wide receiver.
"Certainly, there would be promise over there," Green said. "I think I could help over there. Then you look at our wide receivers and you say we don't need me over there. But if Gibbs called my number, I'd want to go over and do it."
Green has similar thoughts about returning punts, something the coaches have limited because of fears that he would be injured.
"I've done it almost as a hobby," he said. "I've been a guy who's come in as a relief pitcher in the ninth inning. It would be interesting to see if I could have a more expanded role."
Gibbs thinks it would be interesting, too. "At different times this coming season , I think he'll return punts," Gibbs said. "With Kenny Jenkins back there, we're reluctant to put Darrell there. Every time you put him out there, you're leery of overexposing him to injuries."
With his new-found fame, Green says he is interested in expanding his athletic horizons. First, he wants more foot races with big-name runners.
"I go into schools to talk to kids, and they always ask me, 'Can you beat so and so?' I say I can, but they don't believe me. Now, they'll believe me about the football players, but they'll say, 'What about Carl Lewis?' I say, 'Let's see if I can.' I'd like to show the kids I can."
Green said he would like to race Lewis, who won four gold medals in the Los Angeles Olympics. "I know I can beat him," Green said.
If professionals are allowed to compete in the next Olympics, scheduled for Sept. 17-Oct. 2, 1988 in Seoul, Green would like to be there, too.
"I felt I could have made the last Olympic team if I hadn't gone into football," said Green, 26. "It was a great choice to go to the NFL, but I could have beaten anyone in the Olympics in Los Angeles . . . . If I get a chance to run in the Olympics, you better believe I'd go for that. Bob Hayes is the only football player to be the world's fastest man. Hayes won the 1964 Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. I'd like to be that, too."
Not so fast, says Gibbs with a smile.
"I think it's great he's thinking about it, but I don't know how it would fit into his football schedule," Gibbs said. "I'd have to think of football first."
"I know he cares enough about me to not throw me out to do other things," Green said of Gibbs.
Green continued: "When I do anything, I go 110 miles per hour. Hey, I'm little. I'm tough. Okay, great. All I've done now is make people want to watch me more."