About six months ago, rap singer Alvoid Mays was lining up club dates around Florida and preparing to sign a contract to have his first album produced.

Then the Washington Redskins called and asked Mays, who as an NFL rookie in 1989 was a preseason cut by Houston, if he would be interested in a tryout. Put down the microphone and give this 5-foot-9, 173-pound defensive back a helmet.

"A few things started happening for me {in music} and then a few more things started happening for me {with football}," said Mays. "But it didn't take any time to decide because football was always what I wanted to do."

Bucking big odds he'd never make his way through Washington's preseason camp, Mays was impressive. He was among the final cuts, but after clearing waivers, he was re-signed.

Mays has since earned the job as the Redskins' nickel back, and last Sunday against Detroit, he and another reserve, Sidney Johnson, became starters in an extraordinary alignment of six defensive backs used to counter the run-and-shoot offense.

Monday, Washington (5-3) visits the Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) in the first of three games for the Redskins in an 11-day stretch (Nov. 18 they host New Orleans, Thanksgiving Day they are at Dallas). In that period, Mays could become increasingly important as his team's secondary depth is tested.

Cornerback Brian Davis, who did not play in the 41-38 win over the Lions, has been listed as doubtful for the Eagles game, the only serious problem on Washington's weekly injury report. He has a strained calf muscle.

Mays suffered a slightly pinched nerve in his neck against the Lions, but will practice this week and is keyed to make the most of an opportunity.

At Houston, which made him a No. 8 draft choice out of West Virginia, Mays felt he never received a fair look.

On the second play of his first professional preseason game, he intercepted a pass. His playing time decreased, however, and he was cut two weeks later.

"I don't even know why they drafted me, to tell the truth," said Mays. "{Jerry} Glanville {then Oilers coach} . . . is loose and wild. I didn't believe in everything he preached. You could say he wasn't my type of guy. I thought I was good enough to make the Houston roster, but my opinion didn't count."

Mays concentrated on music, not football, after being cut.

"We didn't think he had a chance to make our team," said Redskins defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas. "He came in rusty and looked out of shape, but we saw some quickness -- enough that we were inquisitive to see what might happen. He came back for training camp in great shape."

Getting cut by Washington was different for Mays than his experience with Houston.

"I thought I had proved myself," he said of his 1990 preseason. "I was hoping no one else would claim me because I felt like I would be coming back here. But I didn't want to come back and be satisfied as just being the fourth corner or third corner. I want to play."

In his role as a long-yardage specialist, he has managed to defense three passes. Although he had never previously played on special teams, he is sixth on the Redskins with six special teams tackles.

"He has great skills," said Thomas. "He has great agility and jumping ability. What we hope to do in the offseason is get him in a running program to see if we can get his speed up a little, but with so many teams using three and four wide receivers these days, I think he has a good future around here because we will continue to carry eight defensive backs."

Mays thinks he will face an especially difficult challenge Monday night in Philadelphia's mobile quarterback Randall Cunningham.

"You must stay on your man the whole time because of the way he improvises," Mays said. "You just hope the line or linebackers can keep him contained so you don't have to worry about leaving your man to help."

Helping people, and positive influences, are the themes behind most of the songs he writes. Mays has distributed tapes to teammates of what he hopes will be his first hit single, "I'm On It and Now They're On Mine," and says the reaction has been favorable.

But for now, Mays's music career is on hold.

"I'm playing and I'm happy," he said. "I don't know if that is the title of a song, but it fits me."

Redskins Notes:

Tackle Jim Lachey (hamstring), running back Kelvin Bryant (chest) and long snapper John Brandes (sprained right wrist) were listed as probable for Monday's game. . . . Jeff Rutledge and Stan Humphries combined to set an NFL record for completions by one team in Sunday's win over Detroit. Their 43 (on 63 attempts) broke the record of 42 completions by Richard Todd of the 1980 New York Jets in a 37-27 loss to the 49ers. . . . Rutledge will be the fourth quarterback the Redskins have started in their last four Eagles games. Mark Rypien started the first 1989 meeting (Eagles, 42-37); Doug Williams the second (Redskins, 10-3), and Humphries worked Washington's 13-7 win three weeks ago. . . . Washington has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the Eagles. . . . Cunningham needs 132 yards rushing to eclipse Tobin Rote (3,128) for second in all-time rushing yardage for quarterbacks. Fran Tarkenton (3,674) is first.