The day after the Washington Redskins announced they were inviting five kickers to their summer camp, Mark Moseley sat in his booming Fairfax travel agency, wearing jeans and a T-shirt and water buffalo-skin cowboy boots and said, in all honesty, he hadn't heard which five had made the cut.
Furthermore, he had no overwhelming urge to find out. He knew who one of them was. There was no question in his mind. It was he.
But he asked about the others anyway, and was told they were Steve Cox, Jess Atkinson, Jim Asmus and Steve Willis. He thought for a moment, then spoke. "I just hope they get rid of some of them before I get to camp so it doesn't interfere with our getting ready this season."
Moseley, 38 and comfortable with the competition, is positive of one thing. He will be kicking for the Redskins this fall, just as he has for 12 seasons. So they're throwing a few more bodies his way? So what? he says.
"I can compete with any of these 20-year-old kids they bring in here," he said. "Physically, there's not a one of them that's going to come in here and outdo me. At the same time, I've got 17 years of experience mentally. I can still do the job. I can do the job better than anybody else they can bring in."
He laughs when you call him the "Lone Survivor," but what else will he be if Joe Theismann joins John Riggins as a former Redskin and he makes this team again?
"I've been seeing 'em drop for quite a while now," he said. "But I consider myself a survivor. I tell my wife that, if the ship I'm on sinks, look for me to come swimming ashore, because I'm going to survive somehow."
He scoffs at his relative old age. One of his grandfathers died at 97, the other at 81. "And he had been baling hay all morning, came in, felt tired, fell asleep on the couch and never woke up."
He smiles at the chess game of kickers that awaits him this summer. One day at minicamp last month, after all the official kicks were completed, he had holder Jeff Hayes stick around so he could practice a few more as the others walked away. There's nothing like showing the competition who's the incumbent.
He is in an unusual position. Several of the younger kickers who want his job recently said they look at him as a role model. And when Cox, the Redskins' punter last season, asked for advice on kicking field goals, Moseley gave it to him, Cox said.
"They've never asked me to step aside, because I don't think they're sure what's going to happen," Moseley said of the Redskins. "They know most people at 38 should have been through by now. But with some players, age means nothing."
Yet he said he can't help but get the feeling there are those in team management who don't like him anymore. First there was Tony Zendejas last summer, then there were free-agent tryouts this spring and, now, a jam-packed kicking contest at camp.
He has nothing but praise for Coach Joe Gibbs, who made the final decision to keep him over highly regarded Zendejas last season. Zendejas, 25, received $150,000 for signing, which he took to Houston when he was traded in August. Moseley received no bonus on a three-year contract worth $730,000. He is expected to earn $245,000 this season if he makes the team. But he said he "really doesn't know" what owner Jack Kent Cooke and General Manager Bobby Beathard think of him.
"I know some things happened that Coach Gibbs had nothing to do with, so it had to come from someone higher up, and since those are the only two people, that's what I consider management," he said. "I like Mr. Cooke and I like Bobby. I've never done anything to any of them for them to want to get rid of me. I don't have any idea why they would not like me because I've tried to do everything that could ever be asked of a Redskin, both on and off the field.
"I guess I shouldn't even comment on it because I don't really know, but I do sometimes get a slight feeling that maybe somebody's after me . . . No one's ever just come out and said they don't like me, but at the same time, sometimes I get that feeling."
Cooke and Beathard could not be reached for comment.
Moseley became especially concerned after reading a Washington Post article Dec. 24, 1985, that quoted Beathard as saying Atkinson and Cox would compete with him in 1986. Moseley had ended the season by missing eight of 15 field goal attempts, a problem that has been blamed, at least partially, on the switch in holders from Theismann to Jay Schroeder.
"It was a great present Christmas Eve morning," he said. "It made me feel like I had to apologize for my career. I don't feel like I have to apologize for anything in my career."
He said he called Gibbs and set up an appointment the day after Christmas. The meeting went well, he said.
"He told me no decisions had been made, and I asked that, if they weren't going to bring me back, that I hear it from them first, not in the paper."
The meeting was a fitting end to a disconcerting season.
"Last year there was a certain amount of uneasiness from the draft [when Zendejas was taken from the U.S. Football League] to the money that was paid. Even afterwards, I felt uncomfortable . . . For some reason, the last couple of years, no matter what I did, it just wasn't enough. I set all those records in 1982 and came back to set the record for most points scored by a kicker with 161 in 1983, but still, it wasn't enough.
"Yet even though things weren't going completely the way they should have, I was still doing my job, making things happen when someone else would have completely fallen apart and probably not made half the kicks I did."
He is the only kicker to be named the NFL's most valuable player. That happened in the Super Bowl season of 1982, after he beat out Danny Miller in a preseason competition some thought he would not win.
He says he feels the same way now as he felt going into 1982.
"I was never afraid of that competition," he said. "And I'm not afraid of this competition. I enjoy competition, but there's something different about this year compared to last year. There's something that feels good about this year. Maybe it's because I survived last year."
By his count, more than 300 men wearing the same uniform as he was wearing have tried to take his job. His first pro year, 1970, accounts for most of them. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the 14th round out of Stephen F. Austin -- and then brought in 265 other kickers for a week-long tryout camp, he said.
"Firemen, doctors, garbage collectors, you name it, they were out there, trying to kick the ball. And I spent two days holding for some of those guys," he said.
He lost the job the next year, and lost another one in Houston the year after that. To fill his time and make some money, he installed septic tanks near a lake in Texas, his home state.
The Redskins called him in 1974. They had about a dozen kickers in camp that year, but he got the job.
He acknowledges that, as the seasons go on, his leg shows signs of wear, but it's nothing to worry about.
"The last couple of years, I have not lost anything," he said. "The physical part is still there. That's not going to go overnight. Even when it starts going, it's going to take a period of years for me to lose it. I'll still be strong enough to play two, three, maybe four years."
It's very much a matter of debate at Redskin Park whether the coaches agree with him. Yet it's also being asked: if Zendejas, a bona fide pro kicker, couldn't take Moseley's job, how can any of this year's candidates?
"There are very few guys kicking in the league right now who can kick the ball better than I can, consistently, week after week, year after year," Moseley said. "That's been my forte. Being reliable. That's why I'm looking forward to this year, because even with the competition, I think it's going to be a great year for me."