News & Politics

Redskins Legends: Where Are They When We Need Them?

Vincent Ricardel talks about his experience photographing legendary Redskins players in this audio slideshow. Scroll down for extended interviews with Redskins players like Art Monk, Dexter Manley and more.

Redskins Legends Audio Slideshow on Vimeo.Art Monk
Hall of Fame wide receiver, 1980 to 1993. Monk, who lives in Great Falls, is a cofounder of Alliant Merchant Services, a credit-card-processing company, with former teammate Charles Mann. He also cofounded the Good Samaritan Foundation, which mentors inner-city kids, in 1992 with Mann and ex-Skins Tim Johnson and Earnest Byner.

Whom do you most respect?
Charles Mann, Darrell Green, Tim Johnson, Monte Coleman. Those guys were great players and conducted themselves as men of integrity. They worked hard, played hard, practiced hard. But their priorities were first in their relationship with the Lord and their families.

Most memorable moment?
We were playing the Cardinals in a home game. I was going out for a long pass, I had my defender beat, and I dropped the ball. It would have been a touchdown. Out of frustration, I fell to the ground and lay there for a couple of minutes. The whole stadium got quiet. You could hear a pin drop.

When I got up, the crowd erupted in applause. That did something to me as far as my appreciation for the fans and the people that live in this community.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being a part of a team that was committed not just to the game but to each other. Coach [Joe] Gibbs built a very unique environment on our team. We were individuals but we didn’t play like individuals—we all played as part of each other.
What did you learn playing football?
Self-discipline, motivation, being on time, conducting yourself in a way that represents your organization.
But the most important thing I learned is that football isn’t everything. All the awards, all the Super Bowl games—those are great, but that is not what defines me. What defines me is my relationship with Christ.

Is there a loss or heartbreaking moment that stands out in your mind?
Having to leave the Redskins and go play for another team—that was very disappointing and frustrating.

Favorite current player?
Jason Campbell has a real good head on his shoulders. His personality is where the rest of the team needs to be.

Advice for a rookie?
Your college days are over. Although you are still playing a game, it is now a job.

How would you make the Redskins winners again?
Strong defense and a very explosive offense. It’s easier said than done.

Mark Moseley
Kicker, 1974 to 1986. The last of the NFL’s straight-on kickers, Moseley holds the team record for most points scored (1,207). He lives in Middletown, Virginia, and is director of franchise development and part owner of Five Guys Burgers.

Most memorable moment?
I will always remember the way the fans and the city accept the Redskins and care about the team and the players. We are like a part of their family.

What did you learn playing football?
Perseverance. No matter what happens, don’t give up—you keep fighting.

Whom do you most respect?
Joe Gibbs has done more for Washington sports than anybody who’s ever been here. He took us all under his wing like we were his kids and taught us how to be men and how to be gentlemen and how to be respectful of other people and courageous and never give up.

Who had the biggest impact on you when you were playing?
The guys from the Over the Hill gang—the Pat Fishers, the Ron McDoles. I was young when I first came to Washington, and they taught me how to stand up for myself and really be a part of the community.
Some of my best friends were Joe Theismann and Dave Butz. They were my roommates, and we kind of lived together through those years.

I’m still close with all of those guys. You build a bond that’s never broken.

Heartbreaking loss?
When we got beat by the Raiders in the 1984 Super Bowl. It’s been argued that we might have been the best all-around football team ever in the NFL. Because we were the returning Super Bowl champs, we came in thinking that all we had to do was show up and play.

Favorite current player?
Even in his rookie year, Chris Cooley was what I call a “real Redskin,” one of those guys that through thick or thin you can depend on.

Advice for a rookie?
Embrace the fans. Embrace the organization. A lot of the kids today—there’s so much money involved that they forget there’s tradition there.

We spent a lot of years building a tradition here in Washington that’s highly respected. It’s a winning tradition, and it’s hard-nosed.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
The players don’t truly believe they can trust their teammates because they know they are here today and gone tomorrow. If they can ever learn to work for a team win instead of an individual win, they will turn the team around.

Ron McDole
Defensive end, 1971 to 1978. McDole, nicknamed the Dancing Bear, was a key part of coach George Allen’s Over-the-Hill Gang. Retired from the woodworking business, he lives in Middletown, Virginia.

What are you proudest of?
Being able to play 18 years and not get hurt.

Most memorable moment?
Playing in the Super Bowl in 1972. Miami went undefeated but we didn’t realize it was going to last forever. If nothing else, we get to see highlights of our game every year.

Who had the biggest impact on you?
George Allen—he did everything he could for the players. He was a workaholic. He almost embarrassed you with how much he worked.

Allen drew all the older guys. It was kind of fun. I was 32 when I got traded to Washington, and in those days if you were in your 30s, your career was done.

The players dubbed us the Over-the-Hill Gang. The atmosphere was very family-oriented. It was fun to be brought together. It was kind of like a retirement village.

Most disappointing loss?
Of course, losing in the Super Bowl. But at that time I didn’t realize the game was going to be such a big thing. The popularity of the sport has grown such an unbelievable amount.

Who is your favorite current Redskin?
I like Chris Cooley—he’s a throwback to our era where guys just did their job. We relate to that. We have a hard time with the showboat stuff.

Advice for a rookie?
When you get your chance to perform, you gotta do it. Don’t make mistakes. With George Allen, you could make a mistake once, but you didn’t make it twice. And hustle. Do everything they want you to do. Of course, back then there were only 30-some players on the roster, so you had to play on all the special teams. You did it, and you did it like it was the greatest thing in the world.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
Back then, you either got along with the group or you didn’t play. We used to have terms like “adjust or rust.” That’s key—you got to be able to play together on Sunday.

Joe Jacoby
Offensive lineman, 1981 to 1993. Jacoby, a six-foot-seven tackle, was key to the offensive line known as the Hogs and played in four Super Bowls. He lives in Vienna, recently sold a car dealership, and hopes to coach football.

Most memorable moment?
Super Bowl XVII in 1983—the first Redskins Super Bowl win. It was my second year in the league, and the game was on my mother’s birthday. My rookie year, my mother passed away while I was at training camp.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Because I was involved with such a great organization, I don’t look at it individually. I was very blessed being on this football team. I could never have accomplished as one person what the group of guys together accomplished.

What did you learn playing football?
There’s never a perfect play. There are always going to be obstacles. And that’s the same in life. Things happen, but maintain what you have prepared for, your discipline to get through it.

Who do you most respect?
Art Monk was a man of very few words, a devoted family man, devoted to his faith. He never wavered, and I respect how he carried himself on and off the football field. I think quite a few guys looked up to him.

And Coach Gibbs. More than a football coach, he was a caring human being. I hear from him every two to three weeks, calling in, checking on his guys.

Favorite current player?
I’ve liked how Chris Samuels has developed, how he has bounced back from injuries. I think he probably had his best year in the league last year.

Advice for a rookie?
Mentally prepare yourself. Physically, everyone is pretty even. But it’s the mental part of the game—knowing where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing so you don’t have to think on the football field, just react without any hesitation.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
It comes down to execution. Physical mistakes you can live with. It’s the mental mistakes that can be prevented. Know what you’re doing out there.

Larry Brown
Running back, 1969 to 1976. Brown arrived in Washington with coach Vince Lombardi and went to four pro bowls in his first four years. He lives in Potomac and does investment sales and leasing for NAI Michael Companies, a commercial-real-estate firm.

What are you proudest of?
I was very delighted to be the first Washington running back to gain 1,000 yards in a season and even more delighted to do it twice.

Who had the biggest impact on you?
Vince Lombardi, the Redskins coach when I was a rookie, was a great inspiration. He was probably the toughest person that I ever worked for, but I learned a lot. Being a part of the team, as opposed to doing things as if you were an island, was very important.

And George Dixon, the running back coach when I joined the team. He was one of my biggest supporters and was fighting for me to be a part of the team my rookie year. 

Vince Lombardi was the person that I had to win over. They brought in 20-some running backs, which would give anyone the indication that they weren’t satisfied—or that they hadn’t made up their mind yet. Lombardi was a very demanding coach.

What did you learn?
You’ve got to give 100 percent. Your heart needs to be in it or you are not going to excel.

Most heartbreaking loss?
The Super Bowl. We lost by seven points, and it was a very tough loss. It’s one thing to lose a ball game, but to lose the fight and the ball game is even more tough.

Advice for a rookie?
You have to come in very focused. Do everything you can to be recognized as a person who could make a significant contribution to the team.

How has the game changed?
Today it seems that all the instructions are coming from the sidelines. The coaches have taken some, if not all, of the responsibility of the play-calling, and now they have microphones on the field.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
I’m a big believer in keeping the ball on the ground. If you keep the ball on the ground, you control it better.

Darrell Green
Hall of Fame cornerback; played from 1983 to 2002. Green, who lives in Ashburn, started the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, a learning center for underprivileged children.

Most heartbreaking loss?
I had a weird experience losing the 1984 Super Bowl during my rookie year. I played at a small college and had never experienced championship football. To get to the Super Bowl was an incredible thrill. My teammates were veterans; they had won the Super Bowl the year before, and they were crushed. I was giggling and laughing and happy that I participated.

Who did you most respect?
My best friend, Tim Johnson, one of the former captains Brett Fuller, and one of my cornerback teammates Vernon Dean. Those guys had a moral impact on my life—holding me accountable and sharpening my life for fatherhood and husbandhood and service to the community.

The reality is—and I knew this—I would live longer as a dad and husband and community leader than I would as a football player.

What did you learn playing football?
You may have guys who are alcoholics or drug addicts, guys who are nice, guys who are smart, guys who are funny. You’re dealing with people from so many walks of life. It’s like living in a village.

Favorite current player?
Santana Moss is one of my favorites. He’s done a great job, and he’s a midget like me.

Advice for a rookie?
I always used to say, “Once you sign your contract, go home, have a big party. And the next morning, dunk your head in cold ice water, sober up, and come back here to work.”

I understand the bling-bling and the video games and the Nike-commercial mindset about American football. But I would tell the young man to make sure he has the right perspective on the wholeness of life.

The interviews will be over and the highlights will be over and so will the song.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
I would get back to basics. I would go the old route and make character 60 percent and talent 40 percent. At the end of the day, everybody’s got talent. In the long run, it’s the character of the man that puts him on top.
If I were a team leader or owner or coach, I would also add a little bit more love. Obviously, sports is big, big, big business. But I would try to create a relationship with the fans that is not just a buy-and-sell relationship.

Brig Owens
Defensive back, 1966 to 1977. Owens went to law school at night while he was playing and now works for the Bennett Group, a real-estate-development firm, and for Bennett & Owens, a sports-management company. He lives in McLean.

Most memorable moment?
Once, we beat the Cowboys at RFK Stadium and I made a key interception. It was what we had practiced that week. When the Cowboys came up in that set, Jack Pardee looked at me and we both laughed and said, “Here it is.” Sure enough, their quarterback threw it right to me, and I took it back for a touchdown.

Whom do you most respect?
Bobby Mitchell, the Hall of Fame wide receiver. He took me under his wing when I came to Washington, and we’re extremely close. We’re like brothers.

Who had the biggest impact on you?
Coach George Allen made everyone feel that they were part of the team, from the players and the front office to the secretaries and the maintenance crew. Whenever we won, everyone felt that they won.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
First of all, my two daughters.

As far as football, I’m most proud of being able to bring a championship to Washington, DC, and its fans. I don’t think there are fans like the Washington fans anywhere in the country.

What lessons did you learn?
It comes back to being consistent at whatever you do. And respect others the way you would like to have them respect you.

Favorite current player?
Jason Campbell. He has a lot of poise for a young player. He shows such great potential—I see him growing in leaps and bounds.

What advice would you give to an NFL rookie?
Stay focused on your dream. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Appreciate the privilege of where you are. The career is not very long, so enjoy the ride.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
They’ve got a good young coach in Jim Zorn. The main thing is get to the playoffs—once you get there, anything can happen.

Neal Olkewicz
Linebacker, 1979 to 1989. After a great career at the University of Maryland, Olkewicz was ignored in the draft but signed as a free agent with the Redskins. He lives in Olney and owns Olkewicz Vending in Rockville.

Most memorable moment?
The ’82 NFC championship game against Dallas at RFK. The Cowboys had been pretty much the power of the NFC East, and we beat ’em. The stands were rockin’. It was a watershed moment. We became the new guys on the block.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Playing 11 years in the NFL, especially being an unsung free agent out of Maryland.

Whom do you most respect?
Kenny Houston, the Hall of Fame safety. He was just finishing up his career when I started. He was a class guy. I’d put Art Monk in that category, too—class guys who were great players and did what they were supposed to do and weren’t looking for any accolades.

Most painful loss?
The Super Bowl against the Raiders in ’84. We had one of our best teams that year. We just came up one game short, and we really stunk up the place in the Super Bowl.

What did you learn playing football?
You’ve got to prove yourself every day. Being a free agent, nothing was given to me, so I had to work hard. A lot of guys were high draft picks, and they burned out in three or four years. I knew I had to keep working hard to stay there, and that’s the same with real life.

Favorite current player?
Chris Cooley—all the girls like him. He seems like he has a good time playing the game and works hard.

Advice for a rookie?
I would tell him to enjoy it while he’s there and work hard to stay because it’s a very competitive business and only the strong survive.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
Team chemistry is important. It’s not always the fastest, strongest, or most publicized guys. We had a good mix of guys who fit in well together, had each other’s backs. We always say, “We had characters with character.”

Dexter Manley
Defensive end, 1981 to 1989. Manley was banned from the NFL for failing drug tests and was jailed for drug possession in the mid-1990s. He lives in Bethesda and does public relations for Brooks and Brooks Services, a custodial-services company.

What are you proudest of?
The fact that we all came together as a team—black, white, rich, or poor. We had the same common denominator: to win championships.

Most memorable moment?
There are so many. When you are a Redskin—active or inactive—the fan base makes you feel larger than life.
When we beat the Bears in 1987 to go to the Super Bowl. No one gave us a chance. But when you wear the burgundy and gold, you wear it with pride. They had the great  Walter Peyton at running back. Darrell Green stepped up to the plate, Doug Williams. We couldn’t be beat.

Who had the biggest impact on you?
Joe Gibbs. He cared about people. He cared about Dexter Manley. But at that time, I just couldn’t care enough about myself. I was out of control; I felt like I was bulletproof and I could do no wrong.

Most heartbreaking loss?
When we lost the Super Bowl to the Raiders in 1983. We were supposed to win that game. We beat them in the regular season.

They had people like Lyle Alzado, who took Joe Jacoby’s helmet off and threw it at him. This guy is six-foot-seven—he’s a condominium. Lyle Alzado is about five-foot-ten, maybe 260 pounds and he threw his helmet at the guy who is 300 pounds. That guy is not in his right mind. That Lyle Alzado was a maniac.

But we were supposed to beat them, and we just couldn’t get it done.

Favorite current Redskin?
Sean Taylor would be my favorite player if he were still here. I think he’s probably the only guy who could have played in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

Advice for a rookie?
Be careful of the company you keep. Once you get in the National Football League, you are removed from your culture. Stay connected to family, friends, and faith. And don’t let football use you. You use football.

How do the Redskins become champions again?
Most people don’t give Dan Snyder a lot of credit, but he has a real passion for the game. Jim Zorn’s going to be a good coach. The Redskins are going to win more than 11 games this year. I believe in burgundy and gold all the way.

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This article appears in the October 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here.