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Sunday, December 22 1996; Page D08
The Washington Post

Gibbs was head coach of Redskins from 1981 to 1992.
A lot of what we were able to do is because of RFK and those fans. I admired it because sometimes when fans get tested by severe weather, they don't come out. You might have 10,000 no-shows in a lot of places. Not at RFK. That place would be packed no matter what the weather.

In today's stadiums, everything is so sanitary. They're so big and the fans are so far away. RFK is so different from that, so special. I know other coaches used to tell their players that getting to play in RFK was going to be one of their great experiences in sports. They were going to be part of something special. They were going to have something they could remember a long time.

I remember the first time I walked in there as coach of the Redskins. It was a great feeling knowing that you had a chance to coach in a place like that.

My first big memory, and as it turned out one of my greatest ever, was the first time we beat Dallas to go to the Super Bowl [1982 season]. That place was unbelievable.

Those seats were swaying across from us. I remember thinking they might fly out of the place. The noise was incredible.

I remember afterwards thinking I might be killed right there on the 50-yard line. It was one of the few times the players put me on their shoulders, and with all those fans on the field, there were banners and stuff hitting me. The place was just nuts.

I'll never forget the game when the fans threw the seat cushions on the field. It was one of those rainy, cold games and we beat Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs on our way to the last Super Bowl [XXVI].

One of my wife Pat's great memories was of a guy about 70 years old who'd stand up in his seat and do a little dance everytime we scored.

I could feel that crowd. I could tell whether or not they were ready. At least, I felt I could. It's a great feeling knowing that, being able to hear that noise before the opening kickoff. I felt it was going to be hard to beat us there on a day like that.

Turner is the Redskins' head coach.
When you've been in a lot of stadiums, sometimes it's the architecture that hits you, but when I came into RFK Stadium for the first time [while with the Rams], it was the Redskins and the great history and tradition of the organization and the crowd. The crowd was so into the game and psyched about it. It was obviously a very good football team and a very loud crowd.

Both end zones are fairly close. Like most fields that are close to the stands, when you get near the end zone, whether you're going in or coming out, you're going to have a heck of a time hearing.

The edge for the Redskins, when I came in as an opponent, was that the Redskins were one of the two or three or four best teams in the league during that stretch. Number two, the crowd noise and the momentum. It was going to help you.

We've had that while I've been here. Sometimes it hasn't helped us win, but sometimes it has helped us play a lot closer or play well. [This season] in the Indianapolis game, the place was fabulous and was a difference in the game. In the San Francisco game, we lost in overtime, but that crowd in the fourth quarter, when we were driving to score and go ahead, I talked to Sean Gilbert after that, and he thought it was a great experience.

We came in here with the Rams for a playoff game and that's as wild as you are going to get. Then we came in here on a Monday night game that was extremely loud. But when we came in here with the Cowboys in 1991, the Redskins were undefeated and the Cowboys were a good football team. That first quarter was as intense and as loud as I can remember. The combination of the Redskins being a fine team and their defense was playing at a very high level. I don't think we got a first down in the first quarter. The crowd noise and whole setting was very impressive.

I think it's fitting that the Cowboys are here for the last game. It's such a great rivalry, there's been so many great games, it's the right way to do it.

Mitchell, a wide receiver from 1962 to 1968, is now the team's assistant general manager.
My first year here was in 1962, a year after they opened the new stadium. To tell you the truth, I wasn't that concerned about being the team's first black player. I was more concerned about being moved from halfback to a wideout. Norm Snead and I weren't connecting very well during the preseason. I wasn't used to running patterns and it was his second year and he didn't know what the hell he was doing.

I don't remember any racial stuff at the stadium. The real viciousness usually happened out of town. When I played at home, the people saw how I performed, and they kind of embraced me. Now, a stadium with George Preston Marshall's team playing in it was 95 percent white, if not more. What a lot of people didn't accept was my star billing.

Other players hung back a little at the beginning. I was having a problem with some of the guys. I was the highest-paid player on the team, and that got out. I was also having problems with some of the newspaper guys. I remember a reporter from one paper told me one of his editors told him they were putting me in the paper too much, so he stayed away.

I was in a funny position. I had white and black against me. Whites were not ready to accept me as a star, and blacks wanted me to be a superstar. I couldn't drop a pass, miss a block, make a mistake. I'd go into every game that first year with all these social problems on my head, plus I'm trying to play a new position. That was the one year I was really proud to make all-pro.

Later on when Charley Taylor and Sonny Jurgensen came with us, it got much better.

It's funny, I was in (Congressman) Adam Clayton Powell's office one day that first year I played for the Redskins and he said, "I'm the reason you're here playing in Washington." I'd just been to the White House and John Kennedy and his brother are telling me they're the reason I'm here. The Interior Secretary, Stewart Udall, would tell me the same thing. They all took credit for me being the first black player, and I'm still not sure who was responsible.

I do know this. I'm glad it happened and I'm glad I played there. The people were always great to us. I just wish we could have won more games for them.

Jurgensen, a Hall of Fame member, was the Redskins' quarterback from 1964 to 1974. He is now a commentator for WUSA-TV and covers Redskins games for radio station WJFK.
Three games at RFK Stadium stand out in my mind. The first one when I was with the Eagles. We came in here in '61, and pulled one out at the end. They go ahead in the game and they kick off to us with about 40 seconds left on the clock. Then I hit Tommy McDonald with a long one to win the game.

The come-from-behind game against Dallas in '65 was something special. We're down, 21-0, and came back to beat them (34-31). We just battled and battled to get back in that game, then we blocked a field goal at the end to save it.

The one that probably meant the most to me was the Miami game in 1974. George Allen came up to me before the game and said, "You know a lot of coaches wouldn't start a 40-year-old quarterback." I told him if he wanted to win that game, he'd better. It was like a Super Bowl for me. We win it in the last five seconds, and that's still a great thrill.

RFK was special because the fans are so close, right up against you, and they're pulling for you. I always thought the fans were fair. They cheered when they should have cheered and they booed you when they should have booed, always with a good reason. When we didn't play well, they should have booed us. That only motivates you to do better.

Even in the days when we weren't having winning seasons, they realized we were doing everything possible to win. We couldn't stop anyone, but we scored a lot of points and made it exciting. I had a terrific relationship with the fans.

They were great, they still are.

Hill, a running back with the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 to 1975 and with the Redskins from 1976 to 1977, is a sports marketing consultant and heads a group attempting to bring baseball to Washington.
I would compare RFK to the place my son Grant played college basketball -- Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke. It was such an advantage to be the home team when you played at RFK, and that was even before George Allen got there [in '71]. If they were playing well and it was a competitive game, you couldn't hear yourself think. It was absolutely the loudest place I ever played in.

When we played here with the Cowboys, I swear George used to put the sound system speakers right behind our bench. Then in that NFC title game [in '72], they introduced us, and they kept us out on the field a lot longer than they should have. We were pretty pumped up, but when they started introducing the Redskins, the crescendo got so loud for the Redskins, you couldn't even talk. And when they made a big play, the stands moved when people jumped up and down. It was like you were walking through the shadow of death.

I remember playing there in my rookie year in '69. On one play I was knocked out of bounds right in front of the Redskins' bench. I'm on the ground and I'm looking at these black shoes, and then I look up and I saw a camel-hair coat. It was Vince Lombardi.

It's something that just sticks in your mind.

Green has been a cornerback for the Redskins since 1983.
My first game was against Dallas when I ran down [Tony] Dorsett. Two things I remember before going in there. The first thing was I saw the video of Darryl Grant and Dexter Manley on Danny White, so I saw what the fans were used to doing. I remember [defensive coordinator] Richie Petitbon saying, "We're going to match up and you're going to be on Drew Pearson and Vernon Dean will be on Tony Hill." I grew up in Texas, so I remember thinking, "Man, Drew Pearson," so I was excited and star struck. But I remember Petitbon telling me, "Keep your cool, be relaxed." I remember thinking, "What do you mean, I've been starting for two [preseason] games." He said, "No, you haven't started a regular season game. This is RFK. This is the Dallas Cowboys. Believe me, you haven't seen it."

And when I got in there, it was just like I saw on that video when Dexter and Darryl made that play. But you can see it all day long on video, but when you get in there and see the fans moving and shaking the stands, it was unbelievable. It was RFK and `Hail to the Redskins.' I just remember how I thought it would be one thing and how it really was something you couldn't prepare for. That is printed indelibly on my memory. The coach knew and I didn't.

As a player, I never had complaints about the field or the stadium being old or the showers, because it's like your home, like your daddy's old rocking chair. It's old to you, but to me, it's home.

Schoenke, a guard for the Redskins from 1966 to 1975, is chairman and CEO of Bethesda insurance company Schoenke & Associates.
When I enter RFK Stadium, it's always the same: Memories rush back 20 years and I re-experience the intensity of the 10 seasons I played for the Redskins. I'm very proud of those years. But those years also represent the constant struggle to survive as a member of the team.

I arrived in Washington after being traded by Vince Lombardi from the Packers and cut by Tom Landry in Dallas and Art Modell in Cleveland. It was a stigma I would carry for the rest of my career. Each year I had to prove I could do the job. I clashed head on with Lombardi here in 1969 and later with George Allen. Lombardi questioned my ability to play while hurt and Allen questioned my loyalty to the team. With time and luck I gained their respect and full support, but I lived with the constant fear I would be cut. I knew if I made one mistake, it could be over; there were no excuses. There were many Sundays when my body performed at 70 percent but I willed it to 125 percent. In my later years, it took everything I had to be standing at the end of the game.

RFK Stadium is where all those memories are stored. If I could identify just with the Redskins' successes, there would be no problem. But I also identify with the struggles and with what the players are going through on the field, especially when the Redskins are losing and the fans are booing. That's why I go to very few games. I try to pick those that will be close and the Redskins are likely to win so I can hear the fans' support. Maybe in the new stadium I won't have to confront the old memories and I can just be a fan who enjoys football.

Owens played safety for the Redskins from 1965 to 1976. He is president of Bennett and Owens, a D.C. firm that represents professional athletes.
In reflecting on the 1972 championship game between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, I remember I had the flu that week and on game day. Everyone had the flu. Coach George Allen had the guys wear surgical masks and we had separate meeting rooms for the sick players.

Coach Allen told us: "You can't get sick now. We're playing the Cowboys." He said the whole world would be watching the Washington Redskins. He said if we played our consistent game and were real physical, there would be no way the Cowboys could beat us at RFK. It's our home and our fans. He said if he had to go out in the middle of the field and fight Tom Landry, he would do it.

The game was 4 p.m. New Year's Eve. Chris Hanburger and I rode to the game together as we sometimes did to talk strategy. I remember entering the locker room and no one had surgical masks on. I said, "We've beat the flu. Now all we have to do is beat the Cowboys." It was a game we all had been waiting for. The Redskins and the Cowboys, George Allen and Tom Landry, Billy Kilmer and Roger Staubach.

The true 1972 NFC champion rose up that day; we defeated the Cowboys, 26-3. We showed the nation what we knew all along. We were the best football team in the NFC.

At the half, we led, 10-3. I remember it was raining when we came out for the second half. Coach Allen said, "Now, we really got them. It's Redskins weather!" Little did we know that future Redskins would adopt bad weather as Redskins weather, i.e. the Hogs.

Billy Kilmer came out after halftime mixing the run and pass. Larry Brown with sore leg and all was picking up important yardage. Finally, Kilmer hit Charley Taylor with a long touchdown pass, giving us a 17-3 lead.

When the gun sounded to end the game, it was the Redskins 26, Cowboys 3. Happy New Year, Washington!

Theismann, Redskins quarterback from 1974 to 1985, is a commentator for ESPN.
I remember my own last game at RFK, the last game I ever played in the NFL. I don't remember much about L.T. [Lawrence Taylor] hitting me [and breaking my leg]. I do remember being carried out on a stretcher and hearing the ovation from the crowd. It was so warm and so sincere, and I really didn't deserve it. I think they were applauding and thanking me, and I hadn't really done anything in that particular game in a football sense to warrant that, but in a lot of ways, it kind of changed my life.

I was a very selfish football player and a very selfish man. My whole world revolved around what Joe Theismann could do for Joe Theismann. Those people that night opened up their hearts to me with that applause, and when I reflect on it, it really turned some things around for me.

It made me appreciate people a lot more, made me realize that you can't do things alone, that as good as you think you are, that unless you care about people and have people care about you, you won't have any success in life.

I'll always remember the '83 championship game against Dallas, when the ground shook. There will never be another place like RFK. From a beauty standpoint, an aesthetic standpoint, from a financial standpoint, I'm sure the new place will be wonderful, but it will never replace RFK.

I played football in another era. I'm so thankful I could come out of that dugout at RFK and look around and they were just right there. You could look 'em in the eye. Over the years, I looked at 'em with joy, anger and tears. I'm just so glad I have those memories.

Tagliabue is the Commissioner of the NFL and a longtime D.C. area resident.
After more than 20 years as a fan in my RFK seats (Section 222, Row 10, Seats 1-2), I spent my first night as NFL Commissioner in that same end zone location. Doesn't everyone spend their first night on a new job at a football stadium?

The date was Nov. 5, 1989. The Dallas Cowboys registered a 13-3 victory over the Redskins in front of a Sunday night ESPN national audience and the usual RFK sellout. It was to be the only win that season for then-Cowboys rookie head coach Jimmy Johnson.

I only lasted a short time in the end zone that night because it proved too disruptive for fellow fans. The photographers and TV crews wanted to record my first day on the job -- who could blame them? -- but the fans around me wanted to watch the game. I fled to the press box at halftime. Sadly, I never returned to those seats where I had enjoyed so many great football memories.

Over the years, I watched Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer inspire the Over The Hill Gang even while limping, gimping and grimacing. I also saw Joe Theismann throw to Art Monk on many key third downs; enjoyed Larry Brown's off-tackle runs to start countless TD drives; stood for game-winning Mark Moseley field goals; and witnessed Chris Hanburger, Ken Houston and their defensive teammates thwart many opposing stars. I also appreciated the outstanding performances of so many Redskins opponents.

I've been fortunate since being commissioner to watch recent games with John Madden and Pat Summerall in the low-ceilinged TV booth at RFK, or in the cramped radio broadcast location with Sonny and Sam Huff. I've also watched from Jack Kent Cooke's VIP box on the mezzanine level. I've even been in the visiting owner's booth next to the Redskins band where the home town fans always turned and saluted the opposing owner with "Hail to the Redskins" after every home team score.

The most vivid and joyful memories are of the Redskins' fans, an extremely diverse and fanatic group, who sat near me in Section 222. Washington's political life was represented on my left where former U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) and his family held season tickets. To our right was an Oscar Madison-type who seemed to bring the biggest bag of peanuts to every game. As the empty shells piled high around him, he always struggled to rise with everyone else when John Riggins pounded over the opposition and the diesel horn eclipsed the roar of the RFK faithful.

I spent many a game in those seats with my wife Chan, or son Drew, or daughter Emily, alongside of me. I'll miss RFK, but I also look forward to the new stadium in Prince George's County. Redskins fans deserve a modern, comfortable, state-of-the-art stadium.

As the NFL Commissioner, and an NFL fan, I know how much excitement awaits the fans at Jack Kent Cooke's new home.

Etty Allen is the widow of the former coach of the Redskins George Allen, and mother of the governor of Virginia, George Allen Jr.
I still remember going to those games as some of the most exciting days of my life. They had the band, the fans were so enthusiastic, and the people singing "Hail To The Redskins." It compares to nothing I ever experienced in any other stadium.

I sat in the box Jack Kent Cooke has now, just to the left of Edward Bennett Williams. It was a wonderful place to watch the game and watch George on the sidelines.

I still remember the 1972 title game. It's all such a blur, but George was so happy, and we were so thrilled when he was carried off the field. I remember going to Duke Zeibert's [restaurant] to say hello to everybody, and people got up and started singing.

It was New Year's Eve, and some friends of ours invited us to go to the Shoreham Hotel. We were at a big table, and someone asked us where our children were. They said they had to be there to help us celebrate.

So we called them. This was a black tie dinner; even George was wearing a tuxedo. The kids said they didn't want to have to get all dressed up, so we told them to come as they were. So they did. George, the future governor of Virginia, drives up to the hotel in his red pickup truck covered with mud. He had on jeans and a T-shirt. The other kids were dressed about the same.

But the whole place was hysterical, and no one paid any attention. They played "Hail to the Redskins" one dance after another. That was all the band played. We threw confetti, people were kissing and hugging, just like at the stadium. It was quite a night.

Staubach, Dallas Cowboys quarterback from 1969 to 1979, runs Staubach and Company, commercial real estate, with offices around the country, including D.C. and Vienna.
You had a special feeling when you walked into RFK Stadium. Not because it was beautiful, or anything like that. But because it had history and tradition.

The rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins made for a lot of big games.

Once George Allen got to Washington (1971), he realized the Cowboys were the team to beat. And we always believed George and the Redskins had something cooking for us. Later, of course, we understood the perception of what we were to face was greater than the reality.

Still, I remember every single Cowboys-Redskins game feeling like a playoff game. The fans were so into the game and then there was Diron Talbert [Redskins' defensive tackle] saying all the personal stuff about me and that when I ran, it would be at my own risk.

It did get under my skin, but it also worked for me, too. I knew they said all that stuff about me because they didn't want me to run. But we won our share and I remember the games fondly.

It's funny, but over the years since my retirement, Diron and I have gotten to know each other and you could call us friends. But we weren't then; it was bitter respect, at best.

I remember the banners when I'd come on that field. The banner I most remember read "Roger Who?" I liked seeing that. I liked the games.

It really mattered.

Parcells, the New York Giants' coach from 1983 to 1990, is coach of the New England Patriots.
When I retire from coaching, my most vivid memories will be of the Giants-Redskins games at RFK Stadium, against Joe Gibbs's teams because of the atmosphere, the tremendous fan loyalty, the hostility, the quality of the playing conditions and the quality of the two teams.

Some of the players on those Redskins teams, I coached against them so many times, that they were almost like my own players -- I knew them that well. And the fans at RFK hated me so much, they almost liked me.

The quality of the games that were played there was so high because so many great players played in them. If you think of the eight-, nine-time Pro Bowlers that were on those teams, I had [Lawrence] Taylor and [Harry] Carson, O.J. Anderson, Phil Simms, Mark Bavaro and they had [Art] Monk, [Joe] Jacoby, [Russ] Grimm, Gary Clark, Don Warren and Darrell [Green], [Dexter] Manley. See, I could name almost every guy. And, of course, I loved coaching against Joe Gibbs because he is the best coach I've ever coached against.

I guess my favorite game there was a Monday night opener in 1989, which we won on a field goal with two seconds remaining.

It was getting near midnight, a thick fog was rolling in over the stadium. That place was like a cemetery. It is one of my fondest coaching moments.

I was talking to Darrell Green a few weeks ago and he was saying how he is just trying to enjoy every Sunday because it is such a precious time. I know exactly how he feels.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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