Ol' Ricky's Redskins Tales - Darrell Green + Camp
Ol’ Ricky was once the same age as rookies, then slowly became pals with the oldest veterans and nowadays has kids who are older than most Redskins. But there was always a contemporary – Darrell Green.
Darrell is five months older than Ol’ Ricky, who joins the 60 club in July. Darrell is one of the few ex-players I consider a friend and still talk to occasionally. Being the same age brings some common interests and somehow over the years we clicked.
So it’s interesting that I don’t have one big story on Darrell, but more a myriad of memories. Oh, I remember when Darrell hurdled a Chicago player returning a punt (Redskins coach Ron Rivera wasn’t far away as a Bear). When Darrell ran down Tony Dorsett. Or the 4.15 seconds in the 40 as the NFL’s fastest man. The stories would run off the page in the days of newspapers. Now you just scroll down the screen.
You couldn’t appreciate how fast Darrell was unless you were standing by him. It was like watching a space shuttle roar past. I mean, you looked for the puffs of smoke. He was standing by you one moment and 40 yards away in a blink of an eye. You wonder how did that happen?
Darrell later ran a 4.43 on his 50 birthday. He plans to run it again this year at 60. I would pay cash money to see Darrell race Deion Sanders. I think Darrell would win.
In my youth, I used to race other writers. I’d get spotted a few yards to make it fair. One day we were pondering if I was at the 50 and Darrell on the goalline, could he beat me to the other goal line? One hundred yards versus 50. I would have bet on Darrell. He recently teased me about racing the 40. I said I’d need a 30-yard head start. He offered 20. No way. He’d beat me by 10 yards that way.
During his career, catching Darrell at his locker wasn’t easy. He was always busy on his lunch hour handling things with his youth foundation. But when you did, it would be filled with memorable quotes and observations. Big picture stuff that few people or players provide.
Darrell saw football as an opportunity to help others. His after-school program that is still operating in various towns helped many at-risk kids. That was Darrell’s focus.
But, Darrell is also a religious person and setting an example is important to him. And, we certain need it nowadays as much as ever.
When young kids would scream, “Darrell, Darrell!” vying for autographs, he would stop and correct them. It was Mr. Green. Darrell wasn’t being snooty. He was trying to teach them to respect their elders and a 12-year-old boy shouldn’t be shouting an adult’s first name when not personally knowing them. It was a teachable moment. Darrell would usually then sign autographs.
Darrell’s speed and instincts were a big part of his game and he didn’t like coach Marty Schottenheimer wanting to change them in 2001. It was Darrell’s 19 season and Schottenheimer didn’t care. Indeed, there was whispers of Schottenheimer cutting Darrell as an example that everyone must cater to the coach.
But Darrell outsmarted Marty by declaring the cornerback was retiring at year’s end and having fundraisers at every game. No way Marty could cut the beloved player in town now. And when Marty was fired at season’s end, Darrell quickly announced he was playing another year, his 20. Frankly, he could have kept playing longer.
Darrell was a teacher. Ask Champ Bailey how much he learned playing alongside Darrell when entering the league.
Nowadays, Darrell works as associate athletic director at George Mason University not far from Redskins Park. Darrell teases me he has more grandchildren than I do – 6 to 4. My daughters aren’t pleased with my requests to surpass Darrell.
Tomorrow: A Redskin who watched the Twin Towers fall from his front yard. Lots of stories in my book and these are the types of tales I’ll tell on my “Pizza and Pigskins Tours” later this summer.
Rick Snider is an award-winning sports writer who has covered Washington sports since 1978. He first wrote about the Redskins in 1983 before becoming a beat writer in 1993. Snider currently writes for several national and international publications and is a Washington tour guide. Follow Rick on Twitter at @Snide_Remarks.