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Darrell versus Deion

Guest Matt Kyriacou

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Guest Matt Kyriacou

This just about says it all to me. Funny, but I don't recall all these glowing memories of Slimetime when he announced that he was hanging it up. Check out the paragraph highlighted in red.


The Post's Staff Remembers Darrell Green ...

The Washington Post

Sunday, December 29, 2002; Page D10

Grand Opening

My favorite Darrell Green memory has to be a tackle. Not a pass interception or deflected bomb, not a long punt return or a cornerback blitz. For me, Green's great gifts-speed, heart and commitment-came together in his passion for tackling.

Often the smallest man on the field, he always wanted to be first to the ball, even when there was little glory in it, just a win for the Redskins. Deion Sanders had 525 tackles in his career, 43 a year. Green has nearly 1,400 tackles and averaged 76 for 17 years.

Of all Green's tackles, one stands out because it showed so much that was best in him and it came in his very first game. How's that for foreshadowing!

In the '83 season opener against Dallas, the rookie caught Hall-of-Fame bound Tony Dorsett from behind. And the legend of No. 28, both his talent and his never-say-die attitude, was born.

Green didn't just run down the supposedly uncatchable Cowboy. When Dorsett broke free up the left sideline, Green was so far behind he was out of the picture. At first, his pursuit seemed silly, just rookie hustle. Then, as Green closed ground, he seemed like a young gunslinger saying, "There's a new sheriff in town." However, as Green dragged down Dorsett short of the goal line, a star had been born in the space of five seconds.

A national TV audience was caught by surprise, but we weren't. Green may've been an unknown at Texas A&I. But, as a first-round Redskin pick (28th overall), Washington was aware of him instantly. That scrutiny quickly turned to fascination. The first time he touched the ball, he returned a punt 61 yards in an exhibition game. Washington fans knew about speed. We'd had Bobby Mitchell and Charley Taylor. But Green was utterly different.

Green went from zero to 60 in two steps. Then he seemed to keep accelerating. Plays ended before he'd even reached his top gear. What thrilled you most, made you hold your breath, was that while others players ran, Green seemed motorized, turbo-charged. Nobody in the NFL today is that "different from the rest."

Green said, "Hello," with his Dorsett tackle. Who dreamed we'd be lucky enough to wait 20 years to say, "Goodbye."

-Thomas Boswell

Family Man

During the first Redskins training camp I covered, I noticed a little boy riding his bike around Frostburg State University, which was basically deserted except for Redskins players, coaches and reporters during those sweltering summer weeks.

The next day I noticed the boy helping the team's equipment manager collect errant footballs on the practice field. And each time I saw him again, I was struck by how well-mannered he was, and I grew curious about the yellow walkie-talkie he carried in his pocket.

Before long, I noticed that Darrell Green often carried the same walkie-talkie. And that's when it dawned on me that Jared, the polite young boy who had begun to smile and say hello each time we passed, was Green's son.

Over the years that followed, I saw Jared, his sisters Jerrell and Joi, and their mother, Jewell, at every major event in the Redskins' lives: the retirement of linebacker Ken Harvey; the introduction of the team's new owner; the hiring of each new coach; and, of course, the news conference announcing Green's initial retirement.

Darrell Green was never the focal point of Redskins locker room life in the way that quarterbacks invariably are or that Deion Sanders briefly was. Green didn't join his teammates for games of checkers or dominos, the major pastimes of idle Redskins during that lull between meetings and practice. He didn't snap towels, crow about his college team's success or crack many jokes, either.

During the downtime that marks an NFL player's day, Green often seemed preoccupied by other commitments.

Those commitments, I came to learn, were his family and his charitable foundation, established to help Washington's disadvantaged youth excel in the classroom. And that is the work, no doubt, that will be Green's proudest legacy.

-Liz Clarke

Lending a Hand

In 1981, my son Scott began spending nearly a week with me during several summers at Redskins training camp in Carlisle, Pa. It happened to coincide with the arrival of coach Joe Gibbs, so he was present but unobtrusive at the creation of an era unmatched in team history. He was 12.

Everything was more relaxed about camp, including access to the players.

In Scott's third camp, as he was passing time under a tree between the players' dorm and the parking lot early one afternoon, he noticed rookie Darrell Green trying without much success to affix a Texas A&I sticker to the rear window of his new brown Toyota sports car. Green would position the sticker and, as he let go and moved to the front seat for a better look, it would slip down the window.

Green finally noticed Scott.

"Give me a hand?" he said.


With Green directing from the front seat, Scott moved the sticker until it was just right. The entire process took no longer than a few minutes, and Green thanked him and was off to a 20-year career and certain election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"My brush with greatness," Scott said.

-Ken Denlinger

Taking Flight

Memory preserves moments of wonder in freeze frames to be called up for confirmation that, yes, you saw it happen, you had never seen such a thing before, but this one happened, it will always happen.

The image on the mind's screen is Darrell Green's right leg extended behind him.

And not only behind him, but straight behind him, almost horizontal to the RFK turf, carried up there by the power of his movement, there suggesting that his body could do things other bodies couldn't, such as fly.

Of course, his feet did touch the ground, for man cannot fly, no matter the evidence of our eyes that night, that Monday night, Sept. 5, 1983, when memory froze Darrell Green in flight.

He was at maybe the Redskins 20-yard line. He had run 60 yards, maybe 70, for who knew where he'd come from? All we knew was that Tony Dorsett, the Cowboys' great runner, was on the loose with Green in pursuit.

What you did if you were a defensive back and Tony Dorsett was ahead of you was this: You cursed the fates that made you a defensive back-unless you were Darrell Green, a rookie from Texas A&I, and it was your first NFL game, and it was a Monday Night Football show, and your body worked differently from other men's bodies.

Then you flew.

The play began way back near the Dallas goal line. Late in the first quarter, the Redskins led, 10-0. From the 17-yard line, though, Dorsett followed a block by running back Ron Springs and suddenly was past the line of scrimmage. He broke to the left sideline. He was running free, no one in front of him, one of the NFL's great runners about to go 83 yards.

When here came Green.

From somewhere far, far away, here came Green closing on Dorsett.

Impossible. Surely the 55,045 witnesses knew that much. It was impossible to run down Dorsett from behind.

But in a moment saved by memory, Green did just that. He sprinted past two of his own teammates to do it. At maybe the 20-yard line-there he remains in freeze frame-it was clear he had done what couldn't be done. At the 10, maybe, he latched onto Dorsett and brought him down at the 6.

It would be nice to say the play decided the night's winner. It didn't. Though the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal there, they won, 31-30.

What was nice was that the play decided how we should think of Darrell Green for 20 seasons. The next week the Redskins' owner, Jack Kent Cooke, was asked if Green's pursuit of Dorsett reminded him of anything he'd ever seen. Cooke said, "Yes," and when asked what might that be, Cooke said, "Mercury."

The winged messenger of the gods.

-Dave Kindred

Touches of Class

Darrell Green brought dignity to being an NFL player.

I grew up in this area, and all the eye-catching plays that he has made over the years flash through my mind as he prepares to retire. But as I complete my fifth season of covering the Redskins for this newspaper, the thing I will take from chronicling the final years of Green's career is admiration for the way he carried himself. And the best illustration of that may have come on Sept. 4, 2001.

That is the day that he announced the 2001 season would be his last, a decision he later would reverse to play one more season. It also was the day that then-coach Marty Schottenheimer squashed Green's last realistic hope of being a starter in the NFL, saying that rookie Fred Smoot would start at the cornerback spot opposite Champ Bailey.

Green really had wanted that starting job. He stepped aside willingly in 2000, volunteering to be a reserve when the Redskins signed free agent Deion Sanders as part of their push to assemble a Super Bowl team immediately. Green even helped to recruit Sanders, dining with him and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder at Olive's restaurant downtown. But when Sanders exited, unwilling to play for Schottenheimer, Green desperately wanted to start again, and he said as training camp wound down in Carlisle, Pa., in 2001 that he felt he had done everything he had been asked to do to win back that starting job.

Schottenheimer put him back on the bench, though, and didn't do so gently. On the very day that Green's career was celebrated with his news conference in the auditorium at Redskins Park, Schottenheimer announced he had picked a rookie over Green to start.

Was Green mad about it? Undoubtedly. Could he have created a problem for Schottenheimer, given his immense popularity in this town? Yes. But he didn't. He accepted his role. He allowed the fans to make up their own minds about Schottenheimer-which they did soon thereafter, booing him during the team's 0-5 start-and he went about his business. He became a mentor to Smoot, just as he had done with Bailey and just as he would do this season with another rookie cornerback, Rashad Bauman.

Darrell Green isn't perfect. He is hanging on as a player now, so much so that the Redskins' coaches moved Bauman ahead of him as the team's third cornerback in the second half of this season. You pull your hair out sometimes trying to corner him for an interview, given that he always has a dozen other things going on at once.

But he is a genuinely good person who is doing good things with his life, and he never has done anything to dishonor himself or his team. He has been a class act for 20 years, and how many NFL players can say that?

-Mark Maske

A Pro All the Way

One early November morning, I wandered out to Redskins Park to work on a story about a recent rash of NFL helmet-to-helmet hits, most of them by defensive backs. As always, sage Darrell Green was at the top of my list of players to interview, the better to get the perspective of the only cornerback in NFL history ever to play his position for 20 years.

One problem. As the team's 45-minute open locker room session was drawing to a close, Green was nowhere to be found. Finally, with seconds to go, he dashed out of the trainer's room over to his locker to pick up some gear, stopped a moment to say hello, then darted toward the stairs for a position meeting.

On his way, he tapped a teammate on the rear end and said, "Come on, man, you don't want to be late."

"I can't stay, but walk with me," Green told me. I asked a question, scrawled his response as best I could while huffing up the staircase, then watched him disappear behind closed doors. I looked at my notes, tried to fill in the blanks, then left the complex to go finish writing the story.

On the drive home, it occurred to me that Green's breathtaking fly-by was, in a sense, symbolic of what actually what made the man so special. Here he was, a 20-year veteran-a 20-year veteran!-still worried about being late to a team meeting, and making sure a teammate would be there, too.

What would it have mattered if he'd been a few minutes tardy. A fine? A suspension? A reprimand from his coach? But this was quintessential Darrell Green, a pro's pro from the day he arrived to the day he'll walk out the door.

There's also a postscript. That night, he called me at home. He apologized for scooting off, and asked if it was too late to clarify his previous remarks. I told him it wasn't. "Thanks man, I appreciate it," he said.

And thanks Darrell, for everything.

-Leonard Shapiro

It's Time to Play

One vivid memory of Darrell Green that I will carry forever occurred the night of Oct. 27 in this his 20th and final season. The Redskins were playing the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field in a celebration of the 70 greatest players in the franchise's 70-year history. At halftime, the 70 chosen players, including Green, were introduced to the crowd, then asked to pose for a group picture in the south end zone, wearing their new commemorative jackets.

Moments after the picture was taken, while the other decorated former players headed into the tunnel and to find their seats in the stands, Green, 41, whipped off his jacket, handed it to a friend, put on his helmet and stepped onto the field to take his place on the kickoff team, forever No. 28.

-George Solomon

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