Monk Deserves a Spot

I know the numbers don't add up, not in each category. Art Monk didn't score enough touchdowns. He didn't average enough yards per catch. And when you compare him against other Hall of Famers in those categories, Monk falls short.

It might keep him out of the Hall of Fame when the voting is announced Saturday. It shouldn't. I know many voters consider Gary Clark as Washington's best receiver during his days with Monk. Many who watched the team on a daily basis think that as well.

Having been raised in Cleveland, I didn't see Monk every game. But I do know that I heard more about him than I did about Clark. But even if Clark deserves a spot, why should that keep Monk out? Pittsburgh has two receivers enshrined from its best era.

Besides, when it came time to vote for the NFL's team of the 1980s, here were the four receivers, as selected by media and team executives: Jerry Rice, Steve Largent, James Lofton and Monk. Two are already in the Hall of Fame and Rice will be someday.

Here's the thing about Monk: maybe he wasn't a home run hitter, but he was a helluva singles hitter. Consider him baseball's version of Tony Gwynn. All he did was get on base and let others drive him in. All Monk did was move the chains and let others grab the glory.

This number is important to me: 888. That's the number of catches Monk had in Washington. He retired as the all-time leader in receptions, a mark that was soon broken. But only great receivers get to set such a mark. Another thing: most times, defenders knew Monk would be running his trademark down-and-out; yet they couldn't stop him.

OK, he only averaged a little more than 13 yards a catch and his touchdown reception, especially per catch, is low. That's not the issue. Ask his teammates what they think. Even Clark has said that there's no way he should enter the Hall of Fame before Monk.

It was Monk's approach to the game, his crunching blocks and his willingness to do whatever it took. Many of his teammates never got to know him well because he wasn't much of a talker. Yet they admired the heck out of him.

But don't expect Monk to worry about getting into Canton.

``I'm going to take the same approach I always have,'' Monk said. ``There's nothing I can do. I've done my job.''

And he won't be sitting by a phone Saturday, waiting for a call.

``I won't go looking to see it,'' Monk said. ``Unless someone tells me about it, I won't know. And that's deliberate. I don't want it on my mind. I just want to go about my business.''

Just as he did for many years. The Hall of Fame is about sustained excellence. That's exactly what Monk's career was about as well.


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