The day after the National Football League draft, Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs found himself in an unusual position. He was defending the past actions of his draft choices, two of whom had police records, and a third who missed a year of football because he was academically ineligible.
"It just seems like every one has a little background quirk," Gibbs said at the time.
This week, wide receiver Walter Murray, offensive guard Jim Huddleston and strong safety Alvin Walton arrived at Redskin Park for the team's week-long minicamp. They each came with a story to tell.
Murray, a second-round draft choice who is scheduled to go on trial June 9 in Honolulu on charges of bribing a police officer with football tickets, said he is "scared to death" about going to jail. If he is convicted, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and/or five years in jail.
"But I've got to laugh while I'm here," he said yesterday. "I don't want it to hurt what I've got right here."
Huddleston, a graduate of the University of Virginia who was chosen in the sixth round, was arrested twice in a year and a half, first for assault and battery and public drunkenness in an incident with a professor in February 1984, then for indecent exposure for allegedly urinating off a balcony in August 1985.
He was convicted of the 1984 charges and suspended from the Cavaliers football team for the 1984 season. He pleaded not guilty to the 1985 charge and was convicted of disorderly conduct.
"To be frank with you, I just see myself as a maturing adult," Huddleston said. "As has been reported, I was involved in issues that really are no longer issues. The press made a bigger issue of it than it was . . . It's really unfortunate it was brought up."
Walton, the Redskins' third-round pick, missed his entire senior season at Kansas when he was declared academically ineligible after failing a two-week algebra correspondence course last summer.
"It hurt me," he said. "I wish I could do it over, but I can't. When I first met Coach Gibbs, he asked me about it and told me he wanted me to go back to school. He brought it up and suggested it. I told him I would."
Before the draft, the Redskins knew about Murray's arrest and Walton's ineligibility but were unaware of Huddleston's police record, Gibbs said. The incidents, Gibbs said two weeks ago, were "things we really weren't thinking about. It seems like every one of them was just a separate situation."
There was quite a bit of talk at the time about character -- and characters.
Gibbs said there was nothing wrong with having colorful players on a football team. Redskins history is dotted with them: Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann and John Riggins, to name a few.
"When you begin to put a team together, you look for certain guys who kind of bring every one together," Gibbs said yesterday. "Certainly, [the draft choices] are the kind of guys who have that character about them that seems to kind of help."
The Redskins took Murray's arrest rather lightly, assuming he will not go to jail even if convicted. Murray, who said he will graduate from Hawaii this spring, figures things the same way, but said he still is concerned.
"Any time it's you, you have to be worried," he said. "But all this going back and forth from here to Hawaii certainly is helping to build up my airline mileage plans."
Murray was arrested when he allegedly offered a police officer two tickets to a University of Hawaii football game, according to police records. Murray was on a moped driven by a woman, 19, when they were stopped near campus. It is illegal for two people to ride on a moped in Hawaii. As the officer issued a traffic citation to the woman, Murray allegedly offered the tickets.
He says now he was just joking.
"George Rogers has been giving me a hard time, saying, 'I've got two tickets, I've got two tickets.' This will probably get even worse later," Murray said, smiling.
Huddleston, who went to Episcopal High, said his arrests "are no longer pertinent."
On Feb. 4, 1984, according to published reports, Huddleston said he was at a party when he loaned his car to a friend. Later that night, forgetting that his car already was gone, he went looking for it. When he couldn't find it, he thought it had been towed and knocked at the door of the house where he had parked, he said.
University of Virginia professor David Buxton answered the door, and the two began fighting. They eventually fell over a short railing. Huddleston said at the time he got up and walked away, only to return a while later to apologize.
On May 4, 1984, he was found guilty in Albemarle County General District Court of assault and battery and being drunk in public. He was fined $110 for the two offenses and had to pay court costs of $35. In the 1985 incident, he was fined $50 for disorderly conduct.
Although he missed the 1984 season, he stayed in school and completed his undergraduate degree in rhetoric and communications studies and psychology. He wants to get his masters in business administration.
Asked about Huddleston after the draft, Gibbs said, "He seems to be kind of a character. [His arrest] sounds like a one-night deal, like he kind of got caught up in something."
Huddleston, however, said he didn't think he was one of the "characters" the Redskins had drafted. "It's not like I mind being associated with people deemed characters," he said. "I just don't consider myself one."
Walton said the toughest moment of his year off from school and football was when he went home to Banning, Calif., soon after he was declared ineligible. His 19-year-old brother wanted to drop out of a nearby junior college. Walton told him not to. "Who are you to tell me about school?" his brother said.
Walton said that was the only time he cried during his year off.
"He later apologized," Walton said. "He did drop out, but he has decided to go back. I think one of the reasons why is because he saw me come back and get drafted into the NFL."
Defensive end Dexter Manley's agent said his client and the Redskins have "very material differences" and are "far apart" in their negotiations over a new contract.
"Will there be a problem? I don't know. Will there be a holdout? I don't know," said Rick Bennett, Manley's Washington-based attorney.
Manley, a free agent who made a reported $225,000 in base salary last season, plus at least another $100,000 in incentives, is participating in minicamp without a contract.
"I'm here in good faith," Manley said. "I want to play." . . .
In the battle of the kickers, former Maryland standout Jess Atkinson made 18 of 20 field goals between 35 and 45 yards. Rocky Costello made 17, Paul Woodside made 16, veterans Mark Moseley and Steve Cox made 15, Jim Asmus made 14 and Steve Willis made eight.