- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

First a favor for Larry Centers.
Larry Centers.
Centers, you see, likes to see his name in the paper. For this article, he specifically requested that it be printed "in bold letters."
He laughed as he said this, of course. Centers isn't an egotist. But he does appreciate the publicity he gets in the Washington Redskins' varied offense, which highlights his pass-catching skills. While Centers' fullback brethren wrestle with linebackers and lower their heads for the hole, he gets plenty of chances to skip through the secondary.
"This is fullback heaven," Centers said. "You get a chance to be an integral part of the offense, to move around to almost every position on the field. You get the football. You don't do just the typical, blue-collar fullback stuff and never get your name in the paper. You get to have a little recognition."
But Centers isn't one-dimensional. The two-time Pro-Bowl player, in fact, is considered the consummate fullback, despite being somewhat undersized (6-foot, 225 pounds). Now 32, Centers has accumulated 604 career receptions six shy of Keith Byars' NFL record for running backs without overlooking his fundamental duties as a fullback.
This season Centers also becomes the Redskins' top third-down back, after catching a team-high 69 passes in his first year with the club. Centers embraces the third-down role, vacated by the released Brian Mitchell, as it revives a job he held for years with the Cardinals and further improves his fit in coach Norv Turner's offense.
"He's an awfully good football player," Turner said. "We help Larry in that we don't ask him to be the lead blocker all the time… . But if we got into a bind and he had to be the lead blocker for a couple weeks, he would handle it extremely well."
First-year running backs coach Kirby Wilson agrees, saying Centers' blocking ability often is overlooked.
"I think it is underestimated and it is undervalued because he is such a great receiver," Wilson said. "He has been to the Pro Bowl because of [his receiving skills], but at the same time he can line up every game as the blocking fullback."
Centers relies on blocking technique to compensate for his size. It's a lesson he learned early in his career, particularly after one tough day against the New York Giants' Michael Brooks.
"You run in there a few times and hit a linebacker with the improper technique, it hurts you," Centers said. "You learn don't do that anymore, like a laboratory rat. You get shocked, so you don't go in that door next time."
Leverage and momentum, he says, are the secrets. With them Centers now flattens many opponents. Last year he had several pancake blocks in which, afterward, he made he-man poses over the woozy defenders.
"A lot of small fullbacks aren't going to stick their nose in and try to block 250-pound linebackers," Redskins 'backer Greg Jones said. "He does it. He does it all the time. I respect him for that."
Centers says his gnarliest knockdown came two seasons ago against San Diego safety Rodney Harrison.
"The 'Mouth of the West,' Centers recalled. "He ran up in my gap and I hit him in the head and knocked his helmet off. Then I pointed at it. I told him to go get it. 'You see it over there go get it.'
In such fashion, Centers is unafraid to speak his mind. Last season he promised the Cardinals he would extract $1 million of agony per game to repay them for dumping his $2 million salary. He let the Redskins know he felt underutilized in the season's first half. And this week he was talking up tomorrow's preseason opener at Tampa Bay, where the Redskins' 1999 season ended.
But Centers stresses that he is "not a negative guy," particularly in reference to what he said about his involvement in Washington's offense.
"That whole situation was misunderstood," Centers said. "I wasn't unhappy… . I just felt at the time that I wasn't getting enough of an opportunity to determine the outcome of the game. I'm not a negative guy. The first step to being successful is thinking positive."
Centers certainly is doing that now. He loves the winning attitude of this season's Redskins not to mention his role in the potent offense. And ultimately he doesn't even need any credit, although he doesn't mind seeing his name in bold type.
"[Former Redskins running backs coach] Bobby Jackson, one of his great sayings was: 'Imagine how great the world would be if nobody got the credit,' " Centers said. "That's something that I try to work to."

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