- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Rock.

You won’t find many better football names than that. Bruiser, maybe. Or Bronko. But Rock definitely ranks right up there.

When you think of a Rock, you think of an immovable defensive tackle or perhaps an impermeable offensive guard. You certainly don’t think of a 5-foot-7 fullback, 223 pounds or no 223 pounds. That’s just one of the things that makes the Redskins’ Rock — Rock Cartwright — unusual.

The biggest, of course, is his mere presence on a pro football field. Just his being at FedEx Field yesterday — in a uniform rather than a Hog snout — tells you all you need to know about the guy. A 5-7 player who mixes it up with the monsters of the NFL is a man worthy of respect, if not amazement.

Cartwright was worthy of even more than that after the Redskins’ 27-20 victory over the Seahawks. He was worthy of a game ball — and possibly promotion to first string. Both would seem suitable rewards for a performance that saw him rush for a team-high 81 yards, nearly half of them on the winning drive in the final minutes.

“Rock was huge today,” Patrick Ramsey agreed. “Especially on that last drive. He ran the ball hard, broke some tackles and got the tough yards. He deserves every bit of credit he’s going to get for what he did in today’s game.”

Thirteen times Ramsey put the ball in Cartwright’s belly. For the record, that’s five more carries than Rock ever got at Kansas State (if his memory is correct) — but 36 fewer than he once had in a high school game in Conroe, Texas. No one could have imagined back in training camp that the Redskins would have to rely on him so much, not with Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts, not to mention Chad Morton, ahead of him on the depth chart. He was a valued special teamer and short-yardage back, but that’s about it.

One by one, though, each of those backs got hurt — along with a fourth back, rookie Sultan McCullough. Canidate was sufficiently healed to suit up against Seattle, but Cartwright was pretty much the Last Man Standing (or the last healthy one, anyway). So it is with Rocks. Their 40 time might not be the swiftest, but they’re always there for you.

And the Redskins, let’s face it, needed everybody to pitch in yesterday. If they were going to make anything of this season, they simply had to beat the Seahawks, especially with road games at Carolina and Miami coming up. The alternative — five straight losses, a 3-6 record — was simply too painful to contemplate.

That’s why, with a little more than six minutes to go and the score tied 20-20, Steve Spurrier had his offense go for it on fourth-and-inches at the Washington 25. Desperate times, as they say, require desperate measures. If the Redskins had failed to convert, Seattle would have been in position to kick the go-ahead field goal. But the Redskins didn’t fail to convert. They simply called on Rock, and he plowed forward for the necessary yardage.

“We knew we had to go for it,” he said. “We couldn’t lose five in a row. Actually, I thought I picked up the first down on third down, but the officials didn’t give it to us.”

Four plays later, Cartwright was shaking a would-be tackler at the line of scrimmage and chugging 21 yards to the Seattle 15. And with that inspirational effort, his work was done for the day. Canidate came in to relieve him, and soon enough Trung was standing in the end zone, all alone, gathering in a touchdown pass from Rod Gardner, of all people. The fever was broken. The Redskins were back in the win column.

With no small contribution from a running back called Rock. It was his grandmother, by the way, who gave him the nickname — not because of his sturdiness, he says, but “because I was so clumsy” as a child. Eventually, he had “Rock” tattooed on his left shoulder (the same one he lowers when he’s running to his right).

Cartwright has been a supporting player for so long — two years at Kansas State, another two in Washington — that he doesn’t get carried away when he has a game like yesterday’s. Make no mistake, he says, “It feels good [to have your number called].” Still, he knows his place on the food chain. “We have Ladell, Trung,” he says. “If they need me to give them a rest, I’ll do whatever. … I just try to help the Redskins win.”

He definitely did his part against the Seahawks. Stuck between a Rock and a hard place, the Redskins turned to Cartwright — and their miniature Nagurski helped save the day.


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