Andre Collins, who was the club's top draft choice in 1990, was no exception. He was elated to be following the Nittany Lion path to Washington.
"I just remember being relieved that I was going to a winning franchise, a franchise that had had a great history. I was thrilled because growing up in New Jersey outside Philadelphia, the Eagles were always blacked out. So we always had the Redskins games (on television) and I'll tell you, 85 percent of my family were die-hard Redskins fans before I'd even put on a Redskins uniform Ñ including myself," said Collins. "I loved John Riggins. I just was in awe of Darrell Green's speed and ability to make plays, but I kind of gravitated toward guys as players like Vernon Dean and Barry Wilburn because I remember those guys making a lot of interceptions."
Collins' timing couldn't have been better. Shortly after joining the Redskins, he found himself in the starting lineup at left outside linebacker.
"I got drafted high so I felt like they were going to give me every opportunity to make the team. But to come into a team like the Redskins with so much talent, at the time you're talking about Wilber Marshall, Ravin Caldwell, Monte Coleman and Kurt Gouveia. I didn't really expect to play right away. But the one thing people don't understand about the NFL is that the playing time is situational. My abilities just matched up with what the Redskins were trying to do at that particular time. I had an opportunity to play and start. I was grateful for that. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I don't think that I was any better than anyone that we had there. Just some things that I did, allowed them to put me on the field. Like I was a faster linebacker, so I got to cover some running backs. And there were some pretty nifty backs in the league in the early ‘90s."
The following season, Collins spent his playing time on the opposite side of Washington's defense. The Redskins shifted him to the right or weak side and moved Marshall to the left.
"I was playing next to a great player in (defensive end) Charles Mann and as a rookie, it was probably frustrating to have me playing next to him because I was always saying, ‘Charles, what do I do now? Charles, which way are you going?' I was a pain-in-the-neck for him, so I'm sure one person that was happy that I moved to the other side was Charles," Collins said.
"It didn't really mean a whole lot in the scheme of our defense. It's just that Wilber was a bigger, more physical player than I was. A lot of teams were trying to take advantage of me by running where I lined up on the left side. Teams were trying to take advantage of my lightness, I'll call it. So we stuck Wilber over there and that made our team better. I was able to switch to the weak side and use my speed to chase plays from the back side and to cover backs. It just worked out."
It worked out very well. The Redskins went 14-2 in ‘91 and walked away with the Lombardi Trophy by winning Super Bowl XXVI. Collins says the key to the team's success were the veterans.
"I'm talking about Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Russ Grimm, Jim Lachey, Earnest Byner, Gerald Riggs, Art Monk, Ricky Sanders, Gary Clark, and that's just offense. These guys knew how to put points on the board and that made our job easy. We had some beef up front ourselves with Charles, a young Bobby Wilson, Fred Stokes and Markus Koch. We had big people up front offensively and defensively and that just allowed us to really muscle a lot of teams that we played."
He continued. "That Super Bowl year was so amazing. I just assumed I was going to the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl just about every other year and that never really happened. Looking back, I just remember being relieved that we won because we had been the best team all year. I remember the season getting long and there was more and more pressure to win and win big. When we finally won the Super Bowl it was nice to say, ‘Okay, we were the best team in football all year. We finally did it!'"
Only three seasons later, Washington was at the other end of the standings. Under first-year head coach Richie Petitbon, the Redskins compiled a 3-13 record.
"He was such a great coach and he just really didn't have a