- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

Washington was a town divided in the early 1970s. Not by race or politics but by quarterbacks. Cars throughout the area sprouted "I Love Sonny" or "I Love Billy" stickers on their bumpers.

However, the quarterbacks themselves couldn't have been closer. That friendship between longtime Redskins star Sonny Jurgensen and newcomer Billy Kilmer was the major reason that the division among the fans was never reflected in the locker room.

When the 31-year-old Kilmer was acquired from New Orleans in 1971, the Redskins were still practicing at Georgetown University. After the first workout, Kilmer turned to 36-year-old local icon Jurgensen with a critical question.

"I asked Sonny where you went for a beer around here, and he said, 'Follow me.' I did, and we've been together since," Kilmer said with a chuckle yesterday at Redskin Park as the team announced the top 70 players in franchise history.

Their friendship is still so tight that Floridian Kilmer stayed at Jurgensen's house Wednesday night rather than at a hotel.

"Billy and I talked about it from the start: We knew that if we weren't very careful that we could split the team right down the middle," said Hall of Famer Jurgensen, who missed almost all of 1971 with a shoulder injury and started 13 of 56 games during the four seasons he and Kilmer were teammates. "And we knew that it was going to take both of us if we wanted to have a winning team which had been a rare thing for both of us because we didn't have a good body between us."

Jurgensen, one of the purest passers in NFL history, even offered to help Kilmer with his mechanics, much as veteran Norm Van Brocklin had done for Sonny in Philadelphia. Kilmer could never throw like Jurgensen, but he could keep up with him off the field.

One day they were driving together when they came upon a car with an "I Love Sonny" sticker.

"We decided to mess with the guy, so we came up alongside him and I gave him [an obscene gesture]," Kilmer said. "The guy looked at me, and then he saw Sonny next to me and almost drove off the road.

"Somebody else had an 'I Love Billy' sticker, and Sonny started yelling at him to take it off his car. When he saw who was yelling at him, the guy almost drove off the road, too. That's the way we treated the whole Sonny vs. Billy thing."

Coach George Allen, who believed that offense's role was to not mess up games that the defense was winning, preferred the more conservative Kilmer.

"We could tell who was going to start when George would pass out the game plan," Jurgensen said. "One time against the Giants, we were down 14 points and I came in, went 11-for-11 with two touchdowns and we won. After the game, George said, 'Billy's my quarterback. He's starting next week.' I'm thinking, 'What do I have to do to get back on the field?'"

Whether it was Kilmer or Jurgensen at quarterback, Allen's Over The Hill Gang won consistently. Composed largely of thirtysomething players, many of whom were rejects from other teams, the Redskins went 9-4-1 in 1971 and made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. The next year, they reached their first Super Bowl. Three more postseason appearances and five winning seasons followed from 1973 to 1977 before Allen was dismissed by owner Edward Bennett Williams in a clash over power and money.

"It was a special time," said safety Brig Owens, one of 16 members of the 1972 Super Bowl squad to be chosen among Washington's all-time greats. "Guys truly had a love for one another and rooted for each other. Your teammates' success meant your success."

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