- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008

PHOENIX — Darrell Green said it best after he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday in his first year of eligibility, along with longtime Washington Redskins teammate Art Monk and former Redskins assistant coach Emmitt Thomas.

“It’s a Redskin day, baby,” Green exulted here after the selections were announced. “Everyone said, ‘You’re a shoo-in,’ but I never embraced that. And that’s how I think I was able to play at a high level for so long.

“Before they ever paid me $120,000 my rookie year, I was already overpaid. My whole career I was overpaid, overrespected and overcared for.”

Green, 48, set franchise records with 20 seasons and 54 interceptions when he was selected for seven Pro Bowls, the last one when he was 37 years old.

He had his signature moments when he ran down Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett from behind in his 1983 debut on “Monday Night Football” and when he returned a punt for a touchdown with pulled rib muscles to upset the Bears in frigid Chicago in a 1987 playoff game.

Monk, 50, played the first 14 of his 16 seasons in Washington.

Although Charlie Brown, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders at times made more plays downfield, Monk once held the NFL records for career catches, catches in a season and consecutive games with a catch.

In the 1984 finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monk set a season record by catching 11 passes, including a 20-yarder on a fourth-and-18 that helped give the Redskins a 29-27 playoff-clinching victory.

“We asked Art to block and run inside routes that took away some of his average per catch,” said former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who praised the character of Green and Monk. “Art was always unselfish, whatever it took to be a great teammate.”

Monk was Washington’s first pick in the 1980 draft, as Green was three years later for the defending champion Redskins.

They were teammates in three more Super Bowls. Thomas, who coached both men, joined them for the latter two title games, both Redskins victories. He was elected as a Seniors Committee candidate.

“I’m so excited we’re going in together,” Green said. “This is just so special. I want to say how much I appreciate the Washington Redskins and [then-General Manager] Bobby Beathard. People said how crazy it was to draft a guy who’s almost not as tall as the podium from Texas A&I.;

“I walked on to the junior varsity in 11th grade. I walked on at Texas A&I;,” he said. “I started one game that year and went home for a year and a half because of homesickness. I went back and, three years later, I was drafted.

“We went to the Super Bowl my first year,” Green said. “I didn’t do free agency. I was healthy enough to stay there, and the city embraced me. I was played in one city, raised my kids there and served my community for 20 years. I’m a very blessed human.”

Monk, who attends the same church as Green, felt the same way, despite having been denied as a finalist the previous seven years.

Monk credited previous Redskins Hall of Fame receivers Charley Taylor, his position coach for much of his career, and Bobby Mitchell, then the team’s assistant general manager, for helping him reach this point.

“I’m a little short on words right now,” Monk said by telephone. “I wasn’t really expecting this. I’ve always taken the attitude that if it happens, it happens. It would have been nice to get in first year, second, third year. But it’s a great honor. I’m excited about going into the Hall with [Darrell] and, of course, Emmitt.”

Thomas said he didn’t change Green’s fearless style when he became his position coach in 1987.

“Emmitt and [defensive coordinator Richie] Petitbon with Coach Gibbs’ blessing, they created a defense around me being the matchup guy,” Green said of always covering the top opposing receiver.

In one fell swoop, the Redskins of Gibbs’ first era leapt from having just one Hall of Fame player — running back John Riggins, who retired after the 1985 season before the third and fourth Super Bowls — to three, plus Gibbs. Taylor and Thomas were both elected as players.

“That era, I took such great pride in being a part of that,” the recently re-retired Gibbs said in a conference call yesterday. “You hope we’ll go ahead and have others who will be honored.”

Guard Russ Grimm, who played for the Redskins from 1981 to 1991, was a finalist for the fourth straight year. Grimm was eliminated in the initial reduction from 15 to 10 modern-era candidates.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who had criticized the selectors in previous years, was beaming at the announcement yesterday.

“I’ve been upset every year that Art didn’t get recognition,” Snyder said. “I’m thrilled that we’re finally at the point where the recognition is there. All of those disappointments go away pretty quickly with this announcement. It’s spectacular.”

Staff writer Ryan O’Halloran contributed to this article.

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