Charles Jackson held up the faded fabric, showing off the now off-white, short-sleeved jersey with the burgundy and gold stripes on the sleeves and his old No. 37. After more than three decades, this was his moment to bask in the afterglow of a job well done and the chance to finally be considered a “Redskin for life.”
“I hope you washed it!” someone cried out from the crowd.
Like the other former players who filled the rows inside the auditorium at Redskins Park, Jackson had longed for some form of acknowledgment, for a firmer sense of belonging to something bigger. And on Tuesday, the Washington Redskins finally obliged, honoring 25 replacement players who were signed to the roster during the 1987 strike.
The hastily-assembled squad — featuring a hodgepodge of former draft picks, no-name athletes and even Willard Scissum, a 7-Eleven security guard-turned NFL-offensive tackle — went 3-0 during its brief stint before the regular Redskins returned to win Super Bowl XXII.
“Thirty, 31 years ago, I wore that jersey,” Jackson said after the ceremony. “And I’m thinking, what better place to display that jersey again than to receive my Super Bowl ring? So I brought that jersey out because it just made me feel all of that passion back then. It was a great day.”
Their decision to cross the picket lines was met with ire by regular players. But the hard feelings of the past and the derogatory nickname that hounded them for years — “scabs”— are distant memories. The men who played a small but significant role in the franchise earning the Lombardi Trophy finally heard their names read aloud by former general manager Charley Casserly and received the championship hardware their fingers felt empty without.
“It was just the right amount of weight to level off my body. It was just a little light for 30 years,” joked former linebacker David Windham, who was drafted by the New England Patriots and played a Thursday game with the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders before suiting up for the Redskins three days later.
For Windham, the ceremony felt more like validation. For Jackson, it represented “vindication.” Meanwhile, Kevin “Tony” Robinson, who quarterbacked the Redskins to a 13-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on “Monday Night Football,” called it “one of the happiest days of my life.” And all of them agreed that it was a surreal experience that had exceeded their expectations.
The event began with a group singalong to the “Hail to the Redskins” fight song and ended with Doug Williams, the Super Bowl MVP that season, posing for a team photo alongside Dexter Manley, Gary Clark and the replacement players.
“We were grateful that they won those games,” said Williams, now the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel. “You have to take your hat off to these guys because they lived a part of their dream, too — to play in the National Football League. And it’s only fair that they get the same opportunity that a lot of other people got.”
Each replacement player received $27,000, a share of the Super Bowl money. But last year’s airing of the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary “Year of the Scab” helped put the process for honoring those players in motion.
“The emotions right now are glorified and justified,” Windham said. “Even though we missed it 30 years ago, this is making up for it 100 percent.”
Current Redskins chatted and posed for pictures with the replacement players at the end of the team’s first mandatory minicamp practice of the week. Cornerback Josh Norman even rubbed Jackson’s Super Bowl ring for good luck.
“Being around one of those, kind of hope some of that passes on to you,” said Norman, who lost to Denver in Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
The replacement players’ contribution in 1987 may seem insignificant to some. But before he introduced each by name, Casserly acknowledged that their efforts paved the way for the Super Bowl run.
“It’s great to see [Williams and Manley] because they’re real Redskins for life,” Jackson said. “And to be in the same room with them again lets me know that I’m a real Redskin and I’m a Redskin for life, too.”
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