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NFL.com: "Quiet off the field, Monk's actions on it spoke volumes"


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Quiet off the field, Monk's actions on it spoke volumes

thomas_george_sm_headshot.jpg By Thomas George | NFL.com

Senior Columnist

art-monk-655x350.jpg Otto Greule Jr./Getty ImagesArt Monk runs in the open field after one of his 940 career receptions.

In 1992, when the Redskins still played near downtown Washington, D.C., in vibrant RFK Stadium, on a crisp Monday night in October stoked with anticipation, Art Monk delivered. His teammates told him in the huddle that this was it.

That the NFL career reception record he was chasing was moments away. That the next play, the next ball, the next pass against the Denver Broncos was his.

Monk caught a 10-yard hitch. Bedlam ensued.

It was catch No. 820. No NFL player had ever caught more.

His Redskins teammates circled him on the field and lifted him high. RFK rocked.

Quite a Class

green_thumb.jpg The Class of 2008 may be the most unique in the 45-year history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Among the six enshrinees, you will find:

The 13th undrafted free agent to make it to the Hall (Emmitt Thomas)… a black belt in karate (Andre Tippett)… a Div. II player (Darrell Green)… a finalist in the Hall voting for seven consecutive years before finally getting in (Art Monk)… two players who almost never made it to the NFL (Fred Dean, Gary Zimmerman).

One thing they all had in common: They were scouted by Gil Brandt coming out of college. Here are observations and recollections of each:

» Fred Dean » Darrell Green

» Art Monk » Emmitt Thomas

» Andre Tippett » Gary Zimmerman

Later in the locker room, it was as if Monk had just finished a childhood game of street football or a Pop Warner game in his hometown of White Plains, N.Y. It was as if he had just made one more ho-hum grab for his old college, Syracuse. He described to me on that night, in one word, his thought about being exalted on the field:


Oh, he was proud and joyous. But he was embarrassed, too. Too much attention. Too much spotlight. Not enough focus on Washington’s 34-3 victory, Monk insisted.

But with a towel tucked at his waist and dangling during games, with a style and on-field charisma that was gracefully distinctive, this cousin of jazz legend Thelonious Monk absorbed it all head-on. In stride. Eyes open.

Straight, No Chaser -- just like one of the signature tunes his renowned cousin cooked.

With the world watching on Saturday, this man of few words will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will, indeed, give his speech. The time allotted for each enshrinee’s thoughts is 10 minutes. We can feel fortunate if Monk talks for two.

I cannot imagine a crumb of it that will not be worth hearing.

Monk is 50. He played 16 NFL seasons. He waited the mandatory five years after his retirement and then eight more before finally garnering enough votes for enshrinement.

He talked little in public as a player and as little when he was done in 1995. He never complained or campaigned publicly for his worthy spot in Canton. He remains a rarity in all of sports in his level of extreme skill and quiet. Oftentimes, players who talk less are the ones who have the most important and profound things to say.

Those who followed his classy career are more likely to learn more about Monk in his scheduled 10 minutes than they did in his 16 NFL seasons, 14 of those with Washington.

"I played with Art for four of those seasons in Washington and I cannot remember reading one article or listening to one interview that stood out on him," former Redskins quarterback and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers personnel executive Doug Williams said. "When you think about that, it’s unbelievable. It was always that way. You did not even know he was in the locker room."

But you always knew when Monk was on the field.

In recent years, it has become part of the job description for many NFL receivers to be heard as much, if not more, than they are seen. The league has created a bevy of services and programs to help all of its players, young and old, adjust to the varied pressures of NFL life.

Somehow Art Monk quietly kept it all together. He is more than a throwback. He is a present-day example for every player in the league of how actions justly speak louder than words.

He was on a conference call sponsored by the league this week. He was asked 19 questions. It lasted nearly 20 minutes. Monk probably thought he was on the phone for a year. The longer it went, the softer his voice became.

He talked about playing Pop Warner football when he was 11 years old and how much better so many of the players were and how it "woke me up" on how hard he would have to work to be successful. He said his long wait for the Hall made him more appreciative of getting in. He said he worked hard in the game because his parents set the example of hard work, day and night. He talked about lacking confidence at points in his career.

But what Monk said about Jerry Rice eventually breaking his receiving record revealed plenty:

"You know, the fact he broke my record was no big deal. I had no problem with that. I mean, records are made to be broken. You know, I took it from somebody else. So it’s inevitable that someone was going to take it from me and then someone will eventually take it from him. So, I was excited for him, happy for him. You know, I enjoyed it while I had it."

art-monk-200x250.jpgRick Stewart / Getty ImagesDoug Williams called Art Monk, "The ultimate teammate."

I say Monk meant every word of that.

It fits.

Monk did the dirty work -- tough catches over the middle and blocks that bullied, like those of a lineman. He used his size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) in crafty ways, lulling defensive backs to sleep, making it difficult for them to gauge him before whizzing past them.

He won three Super Bowls with the Redskins. His peers respected him. But one reason his selection took so long was that Hall of Fame voters insisted that Monk did not make a signature play during his career.

"A signature play?" asked Brian Mitchell, a Monk teammate who played 14 NFL seasons and is now a TV/radio sports analyst in D.C. "People here in D.C. for the last eight years, when they would hear that, they would become very upset. Actually, people around here have been mad about Art being looked over.

"He made winning plays and did it when there was not the protection of receivers being untouched after 5 yards downfield, like there is now. He did it against what I believe were better cornerbacks than now. He did a lot more for football than a lot of guys who go around now promoting themselves. He was professional, a hard worker, was and is a strong charity guy in the community and was in no trouble. He did everything you want an NFL player to do and be. I followed his actions. That meant more to me than anything he could have said."

Williams called Monk "the ultimate teammate."

Former NFL coach Dennis Green added: "Consistent. We have guys in this league right now who are exceptionally talented, more than Art Monk. But his consistency, his dependability, along with the production, was special."

Monk finished his career with the Jets (1994) and the Eagles (1995) but he earned his reputation with the Redskins. He said that his speech will be a thank you to the people who helped him reach Canton. I expect it will be much more.

The Hall of Fame ceremonies have a way of grabbing the inductee by the throat, an enormous, emotional experience that rivals any game day. It is an exclamation point. It is humbling.

One of the most humble men the game has offered enters that mix.

He would like to do it Straight, No Chaser.

But expect much more.

"I always knew where Art was on the field and what he was going to do," Williams said. "If players today took his approach, we’d have a much better league. He is as deserving a Hall of Famer as any of one in there."

All hail the Monkman! :notworthy

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