- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004


Sonny Jurgensen might need some time to pick the greatest moment of his 11 seasons as a Redskins quarterback, but he shouldn’t have any trouble recalling one of the most embarrassing.

This was in August 1966, and the Redskins had traveled down from Carlisle, Pa., for an exhibition game the next night at then-D.C. Stadium. I was nursing a beer at a popular bar on Wisconsin Avenue NW when the owner approached with a funny look in his eye. “Dick, I see you’re by yourself,” he said. “We’re pretty full, so can I have somebody join you?”

A moment later, Sonny sat down and asked my name. Then he beckoned to the waitress. “Bring us a pitcher and keep bringing one every 10 minutes.”

The first pitcher arrived. Sonny, who had a reputation as a playboy, poured two glasses and emptied his in a gulp.

“Boy, I needed that,” he said. “Our new coach, Otto Graham, has been talking all summer about my weight. Heck, I had a pot belly when I was 14 — it’s just the way I’m built.”

I nodded sympathetically as Sonny started to guzzle his second glass.

“I’ll tell you,” he said. “Otto was a great quarterback, but he doesn’t know anything about coaching. I throw the ball with my arm, not my stomach. Gosh, he might be the worst I ever played for.”

After a few minutes more of this, Sonny paused. “Hey, you’re probably tired of hearing me complain. What do you do, Dick.”

With the deadest possible pan, I said, “I’m a [relatively new] sportswriter for the Washington Star, Sonny.”

Jurgensen’s face turned as red as his hair and then chalk white. Before he had a heart attack, I said, “Don’t worry — I’m not working. What you said stays right here.” And so it has, until now.

Dick Heller

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