Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky and Dominique Dawes, Washington Senators legend Walter Johnson and former Washington Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs are among the first athletes who will be inducted to the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame this week. Ahead of Friday’s ceremony, Springs is still getting over the surprise of being part of the inaugural class.
“I figured it would take me about five years to get in with all the players who have come through Montgomery County,” he said in a phone interview.
Springs was the featured speaker at an event in May to formally announce the establishment of the MCSHF. About two months later, he learned that he would be one of the first six people to join the hall, as would Bob Milloy, Springs’s football coach for two of his three years at Springbrook. Former Churchill soccer star Bruce Murray, who led Clemson to a pair of national titles, rounds out this year’s class.
Friday’s induction ceremony will be at the Silver Spring Civic Center from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with D.C. United play-by-play announcer Dave Johnson serving as the host. The event is free and open to the public, but online registration closes at midnight Wednesday. Every living honoree is scheduled to attend except Ledecky, who is busy training in California but recorded a special video to be played during the festivities.
Anyone can nominate someone for the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame, though candidates must meet several criteria to be inducted. Athletes, for instance, must be a Montgomery County native, a resident for at least five years or have attended high school in the county. (Johnson, who won 417 games during his 21-year major league career with the Senators, retired to his farm in Germantown and was elected Montgomery County commissioner in 1938.)
“I can’t believe they didn’t have a hall of fame before, but the first name I thought about when I heard they were doing this was Mr. Milloy,” Springs said. “He has to be in there. I was pretty pumped to find out that he was going in, and I was ecstatic for the opportunity to go watch him before I found out that I was going in with him.”
Milloy won 405 games over 47 years coaching football in Montgomery County, including 16 years at Good Counsel before retiring after the 2016 season. Springs said Milloy was a “hard but fair” coach with a simple game plan.
“He was all about getting the best players the ball,” said Springs, who played running back in addition to defensive back in high school. ”I still remember he’d call ’87 Belly.' He did not care if you knew it was coming. People would call it out. They knew I was getting the ball and he’d say, ‘Try to stop it.’ He was still doing the same thing years later. He’d say, ‘If the game gets tight, I’m going to throw it to [former Good Counsel star] Stefon Diggs.’ His philosophy never changed."
Springs, who went on to star at Ohio State, enjoyed a 13-year NFL career after the Seattle Seahawks drafted him third overall in 1997. He played for the Redskins from 2004 to 2008, retired after the 2009 season and, for the past five years, has served as CEO of Windpact. Among other projects, the Leesburg-based impact protection technology company is working to develop a safer football helmet.
The 44-year-old has also served as a mentor to Redskins rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins since the two met at a football camp about a decade ago. He was instrumental in the Haskins family’s decision to move to the area from New Jersey so that Dwayne could attend Bullis School, where the high school football competition would be stiffer. Springs said he texts with Haskins at least once a week, and Springs reports he is handling his current role as Case Keenum’s backup well.
“He probably learned that at Ohio State, sitting for two years there,” Springs said. “Coming to Washington, I think he’s just already accepted the fact that he can take his time, do things right, learn and develop and see what happens. The same thing happened in college, and he threw  touchdowns. I think Doug Williams and Bruce [Allen] and Mr. [Daniel] Snyder made it clear that they want him to be the quarterback of the future, so it’s more important for him to just have the right perspective. It’s not about today; it’s about long-term vision of the organization. As fans we don’t have patience, but still, you got to learn.”
A football autographed by Haskins is one of the items in the silent auction to help support Friday’s event. Other items include a day with the Washington Spirit — opening bid: $60, retail value “priceless” — and a basketball signed by Gary Williams, John Thompson III, Karl Hobbs and Jim Calhoun.
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