- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

What descriptors do fans use in describing Art Monk? Modesty, stealth receiver, strong body and soul, creatively talented, quietly intense, remarkable hands, NFL’s best, a work of beauty. As his friend and teammate, I have always seen a masterpiece, a true work of art, painted on a canvas of principles, ethics and perseverance.

Wikipedia (our 21st-century version of the World Book) says that “a work of art” is a creation - such as a song, book, film, video game, sculpture or painting - that has been made in order to be a thing of beauty in itself. Art never saw what he did on all of those Sunday afternoons and Monday nights as beauty in itself. He saw what he did very naturally, humbly and responsibly. It was his job to help his team strive to be the nation’s best every year.

I can’t help thinking of all those Sunday afternoons back in the Washington Redskins’ heyday of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Watching the elegance in which Art moved, the discipline that made him devastatingly successful for more than a decade and a half in the National Football League, the toughness that allowed him to play a brutal game for years with very few injuries, and the quiet leadership that drove the man to always be on his game, day in and day out. And watching the respect he commanded because of the way he destroyed the opponents’ defenses with key catches in crucial points of the games.

No one that I have ever played with had a stronger work ethic than Art Monk. He started to train in the off-season, about two-and-a-half months after the season was over, with workouts at George Mason University every day of the week, Monday through Friday. If you wanted to work out with Art, you just simply showed up at 9 a.m. and he was there - no need to call him and let him know you were coming. Art was always going to be there, rain or shine. Whether he was on the track with a weight belt tied around his shoulders or a parachute attached behind him while running 200-meter sprints or running the dreaded hill adjacent to Route 123 for 75-100 repetitions, Art’s ethic ensured that when it came to being prepared for the season, he was always there.

During Art’s 16-year career, he battled exercise-induced asthma. You would have never known. His heart would never let his lungs defeat or limit him. He developed his lung capacity by pushing himself through those tough days in the off season and the hot days of training camp. No one understood the price of success better than Art. His values drove every decision he made (and still does). If the asthma tried to limit him, he would muster up the effort to go beyond the pain.

Art is a guy who is so emotionally healthy that he never allowed football to define him. He would always say (and still does) that “football is what I do, it’s not who I am.”

Six months ago, when Art finally found out that he made the Hall of Fame, he came into work the next day, mostly because he had nowhere else to go - and that was what he always did on Monday morning after his hour-and-a-half workout. He walked past some of his co-workers like he would any other day and mumbled “hello.” But I have to admit, this time he walked a little slower. Art was relieved that the Hall of Fame monkey was finally off his back.

As Art Monk enters legendary status today, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008, I believe there are three things he wants football fans to understand about Art’s eight-year wait to get into the Hall. His goal was never to get into the Hall of Fame; it was for his team to win every game day. Despite his career, he never thought that it was a lock to get in. And, he never ever once lobbied for the honor - if it happened it happened.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art.” No one is more beautiful on and off the field than Art Monk.

Charles Mann, a former defensive end with the Washington Redskins (1983-93), is a principle at Alliant Merchant Services. He and Art Monk are two cofounders of the Good Samaritan Foundation.

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