- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

CANTON, Ohio | Darrell Green and Art Monk were initiated into pro football’s most exclusive fraternity Friday here in the sport’s birthplace.

The Washington Redskins legends were treated to a sometimes-raucous luncheon given in honor of the Class of 2008 by such previous enshrinees as cornerbacks Lem Barney and Mike Haynes and receivers Ray Berry and Don Maynard.

Finally, following an afternoon news conference, Green, Monk and fellow inductees Fred Dean, Emmitt Thomas, Andre Tippett and Gary Zimmerman received their yellow Hall of Fame blazers as the guests of honor at the Enshrinees Dinner.

“It’s almost like walking on holy ground,” Monk said. “The reality didn’t really hit until a couple of days ago and even more so as we met with the [previous] Hall of Famers today, hearing about what the Hall of Fame meant to them. Seeing them all in that room together - I am excited about this moment.”

So is Green, whose public tears following his election in February were the subject of some good-spirited teasing at the luncheon from those already enshrined. Green was the last of the six inductees to arrive at the news conference, and he acted like a host of sorts, shaking each classmate’s hand and saying, “Welcome to the Hall of Fame.”

Green is enjoying the Canton experience so much he said he planned to return each year for the enshrinement ceremonies.

“I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t come back,” said the 48-year-old, a seven-time Pro Bowl pick whose 295 games and 20 seasons are Redskins records. “… I’m going to enjoy the whole ride, experience it all.”

The 50-year-old Monk at one point held the NFL records for catches in a career, catches in a season and consecutive games with a catch, and he won election to the Hall on his eighth try.

Monk didn’t begin working on his speech for the Saturday induction ceremony until two weeks ago and didn’t finish until Wednesday. He said he’s more nervous about the induction than he was about his wedding because “the magnitude of this is much grander.”

Green and Monk each chose to be presented Saturday by their sons. Green, one of eight siblings, will be surrounded by his large extended family. He joked that all the short people now in Canton are Greens and said there aren’t any left this weekend in his native Houston.

Green’s diminutive stature gave doubts to Hall of Fame receiver Bobby Mitchell, then the Redskins’ assistant general manager, when the team drafted him in the first round in 1983.

“I thought [general manager] Bobby Beathard was crazy for drafting Darrell,” Mitchell said. “We had drafted Art [in the first round in 1980] because we wanted to get bigger and stronger at receiver, and now we’ve got the secondary going the other way.

“But the day that Darrell first came to Redskin Park, he came down to the locker room. I was the only guy down there. I sat this little guy down and we started to talk. The more we talked, he got bigger and taller in my mind. As he talked about what he wanted, it was obvious to me that this guy had everything except height.”

Mitchell was instantly sold on Monk.

“Bobby told me to go check out Art because I had made the move from running back to receiver that Art was making at Syracuse,” Mitchell said. “At that time, there weren’t that many guys besides me, Charley [Taylor] and Lenny [Moore] who had done that. I thought he could do it, so I wasn’t shocked that he did do well.”

Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, who coached Monk for 12 years and Green for 10, had another take on his former stars.

“People talk about their physical ability and all the plays they made on the field, but for me it’s kind of the opposite,” Gibbs said. “I think about their character, the kind of people they were and the leadership they provided. I told them both this morning, ‘I really appreciate you guys keeping me in a job, being the leaders that you were.’ That of course, has carried over to the community [with] all their charitable efforts.”

Taylor, a Hall of Fame wideout and a Redskins assistant during the Monk-and-Green era, said “their talent was obvious.”

He said Monk had the ability to throw a devastating block and make a big play downfield. Asked whether Green could have covered him, Taylor smiled and said, “I doubt it.”

Green responded, “If he was used to catching [five passes a game], he would have caught one.”

Green said he sometimes regrets making the play that first brought him national attention, a spectacular rundown of Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett on “Monday Night Football” in 1983 - Green’s first professional game. The play, Green said, prevented people from seeing the skill behind the speed.

Dorsett, also a Hall of Famer, hasn’t forgotten the moment.

“When I finally got him in my vision, I didn’t have anything left to kick it into another gear,” Dorsett said. “When he tackled me, I looked down and said, ‘Where the hell did you come from?’ Twenty-five years later, he’s caught me again. He’s a Hall of Famer. He was supposed to catch me. In sports, speed kills. But to make 20 years in the National Football League, which is almost unheard of, you’ve got to have more than just speed.”

Gibbs said Green and Monk shared more than physical gifts and strong character. They also had a desire to perform in the clutch.

“[When] it got down towards the end of the game, Art wanted the ball and Darrell wanted a chance to run a kick back,” Gibbs said. “They wanted the game to depend on them.”

As for how they’ll react during Saturday night’s induction, Monk said, “Darrell cries over the littlest things. I’ve never been a crier, but who knows what will happen?”