- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

Samu Qureshi is 38, tall, good-looking, a lawyer, the son of an important figure in international politics and commerce. He is worldly and intelligent, well-educated and eclectic. He has a great girlfriend. He would appear to have it all, including Redskins season tickets and the use of his company's suite at FedEx Field.
Here is where it starts to get crazy.
Back in 1994, Qureshi was pictured on a magazine cover wearing a jersey that once belonged to Charley Taylor, the great Redskins receiver. He also was wearing a headdress and other Indian adornment. And he was holding a football in front of his face. Accompanying the picture were the words, "Sunday Worship. The Washington Redskins and the People Who Love Them Too Much."
Samu Qureshi was one of those people. But if he loved the Redskins too much then, what about now?
Are you kidding?
Eight years later, on a chilly night in November, the week of the Big Game, Redskins at Dallas, Qureshi is standing in the basement of his home in Bethesda. Actually, it is much more than a basement. He and his friends call it "The Museum," and he is surrounded by hard evidence that he does, in fact, love the Redskins way too much. He is surrounded, literally, by what is likely the largest and most valuable collection of Redskins memorabilia in the world.
But for Samu Qureshi, too much is never enough.
"I'm rather obsessive," he says without a hint of apology. "I have an obsessive personality. When I get into collecting something, I kind of go nutso."
This isn't the stuff you get at the mall for doing up your bathroom in a Redskins motif. This isn't what Qureshi contemptuously dismisses as "paraphernalia." This is real stuff, stuff worn in games, stuff with real historical import. "This is memorabilia," he says.
And it is everywhere. There are game jerseys worn by Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff and dozens of others, and warm-up jackets hung on those circular racks you see in clothing stores; helmets and Lucite-encased footballs autographed by players, not some machine; scrapbooks filled with clippings, and posters and paintings and signs, most of them also autographed.
There are cars and trucks and watches and a transistor radio with the little leather strap hanging off it, all affixed with some sort of Redskins logo; mugs and cups and glasses and soda cans and a full set of 36 Redskins bottle caps from 1965. There is a set of Matryoshkas those Russian nesting dolls each hand-painted in the likeness of a Redskin, made in Russia.
Qureshi has board games endorsed by Slingin' Sammy Baugh and Vince Lombardi. He has a box of Nestle's Quik with Lombardi's picture on it and some petrified Quik from 1969, Lombardi's only season with the Redskins, still inside.
He has letters, many from players like Jumpy Geathers, a defensive tackle who played in the early '90s. Geathers is Qureshi's all-time favorite Redskin. Not Baugh, not Jurgensen, not Joe Theismann (or "Theesman," as Qureshi says it, using the original pronunciation) nor Larry Brown nor Darrell Green. It's Jumpy Geathers. "He was just a great, big fella and I liked his nickname," Qureshi explains. "He was a great guy. A super cool guy."
Qureshi has a letter from Redskins owner George Preston Marshall to Anita Loos, who wrote "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." It is clear from the letter that Marshall was hitting on her. Another Marshall letter, from 1934, is written to a Michael V. DiSalle in Toledo stating that the Boston Braves (Marshall's team before they became the Redskins) could not play a game against "your team" on Oct.16 but perhaps on Oct.18. DiSalle went on to become mayor of Toledo and governor of Ohio, but inasmuch as Toledo did not have an NFL team, the letter is a mystery.
Qureshi has championship pocket watches and fobs and an NFC championship ring that Alvin Garrett, a wide receiver on two Super Bowl teams, a member of the famed "Smurfs," had to sell.
On shelves are dozens of bound volumes of game programs from nearly every home game since 1937, the Redskins' first year in D.C. and high school yearbooks and college programs of players who would one day end up a Redskin. A visitor reached into a stack and pulled out a 1970 Notre Dame-Pitt program. Why? Joe Theismann ("Theesman"), dummy.
"There are some things I just had to have," Qureshi said.
This could be his epitaph.
One such item is a painting hanging over the stairs that lead to the Museum, a Robert Stephen Simon painting depicting Redskins quarterbacks Billy Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann and Sammy Baugh. Also over the stairs is an original poster advertising "King of the Texas Rangers," a 12-part movie serial that featured Baugh, "The Football Sensation," as he was advertised.
Qureshi has stocked his collection from estate and yard sales and auctions, by answering magazine ads, through a growing network of like-minded accomplices and by doing good, old-fashioned detective work. He has a savvy and discerning eye, although he did get burned several years ago when he paid $1,500 for what he believed to be a jersey worn by quarterback Heath Shuler at the University of Tennessee. It wasn't.
But some good still came of that. Qureshi eventually recovered his money, helped by a letter Shuler wrote documenting that the jersey was a fake. Which explains why when Shuler, who flopped as the Redskins' top draft pick in 1994, was mercilessly booed or subjected to other abuse by fans, Qureshi passionately defended him. "It was the only time I came close to coming to blows," he said.
Perhaps Qureshi's most prized possession is a Jurgensen warm-up jacket. Or maybe it's Baugh's original 1949 contract ($12,000). It hangs on the wall. So does John Riggins' jock strap, which Qureshi got from an equipment man at Dickinson College, the Redskins' summer home in Carlisle, Pa., and coincidentally, he swears Qureshi's alma mater.
The walls are so full that Qureshi has things stuck to the ceiling, like a circle of valuable pennants. He has Babe Laufenberg's uniform name tag, Dave Butz's shin guard, Joe Tereshinski's shoulder pads. Those were delivered personally. Tereshinski, a teammate of Baugh's who played end and linebacker for the Redskins from 1947 through 1954 and spent another five years as an assistant coach, lives two blocks from Qureshi.
On Thanksgiving, while the Redskins were again losing to the Cowboys, Tereshinksi dropped by to visit Qureshi and check out the Museum, which he hadn't seen in awhile. "I was very impressed," Tereshinksi said of Qureshi's collection, not the Redskins' performance. "I don't know anyone who has anything like what Samu has."
Neither does anyone else. Samu has so much memorabilia the Museum is adjoined by a smaller room, the Annex, which is overflowing. The Annex has an annex itself, and as much as Qureshi tries to keep the upstairs tidy, he's got piles of stuff there, too. He is thinking of adding another level to his house. Maybe one day with the Redskins help, he said, he can open a real museum.
Qureshi has other interests, lots of them. He is an amateur photographer. He loves all types of music and owns about 1,500 CDs. Jazz posters and signed lithographs of Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia provide relief from the overriding (overwhelming?) football presence. One of Qureshi's favorite performers is the singer, Michelle Shocked. A couple of years ago, he and his girlfriend, Valerie Grissom, worked as roadies during a Shocked tour of England, and he even got to sing on stage with her.
Qureshi was a typical Redskins fan as a kid, no more, no less. But then George Allen became head coach in 1971, bringing in a bunch of colorful, aging veterans known as the "Over the Hill Gang." They still had some mileage left and the Redskins immediately won, going to their first Super Bowl after the '72 season. Young Samu was transfixed, and transformed.
"I loved those guys," he said. "They were such characters. They played with tons of emotion, and you always felt they were in the game. You always felt Diron Talbert would strip the ball from the quarterback, or Bill Malinchak would block a punt."
Qureshi was an avid baseball card collector. But when Topps, for years the primary card manufacturer, lost its monopoly in the market and other companies started making cards, he moved on. "I found memorabilia to be much more interesting," he said.
Recently, Qureshi added "The Grandstand" at the far end of the basement. Here is where Qureshi and his friends, sometimes as many as 60 (they bring their kids), gather to watch Redskins road games on his brand new high-definition television.
The TV is nice, but lots of basements have nice TVs. What most don't have, but Qureshi's does, are three rows of seats, one each from the Redskins' stadiums. There is a row from old Griffith Stadium, another from RFK Stadium, another from FedEx Field. Don't ask. In addition, Qureshi has two huge chairs shaped like football helmets. You can rest your feet on the facemasks.
And, he has cheerleaders.
Qureshi ordered up six life-sized female mannequins ("I got them on the Web. Type in 'mannequins.' Get some mannequins.") and outfitted them with real Redskins cheerleader outfits and pom-poms. That wasn't easy. "They're very rare," Qureshi said, speaking earnestly, as usual. "Many didn't survive. They weren't allowed to keep their uniforms. [The Redskins] were concerned the women might use them for inappropriate purposes. Most got destroyed. They disappeared after they moved out of RFK."
Yes? And? Qureshi lowered his voice conspiratorially.
"I was able to get my hands on a few from a former cheerleader," he said.


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