QBs trade tales at ceremony

They swapped hugs and stories and laughs. That's the kind of day it was at Redskins Park Thursday when the franchise announced its 70th anniversary team, introducing the top 70 players in its history.

Many of the stories belonged to three quarterbacks who once played together, often with tension. Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann played two years together in the 1970s. And, while Kilmer and Jurgensen got along, they shunned Theismann.

Their cold war was put on ice Thursday.

''They actually talked to me,'' Theismann said. ''It's the first time I've been in a room with Sonny and Billy and both of them said, 'Hi.' I'm honored. I must have done something good now. I'm feeling pretty special.''

Meanwhile, in the lobby, Kilmer hugged former corner Pat Fischer tightly and a few minutes later did the same with Senator George Allen, son of the coach who helped make Kilmer famous. Others did the same.

Fourteen of the 70 players attended the ceremony, which included a reception in the locker room. Owner Dan Snyder and former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw were there as was former local radio personality Ken Beatrice.

In addition to the three former quarterbacks and Fischer, other ex-players in attendance were: linebacker Ken Harvey, receiver Charley Taylor, offensive tackle Jim Lachey, center Jeff Bostic, linebacker Sam Huff, defensive end Charles Mann, receiver Art Monk, safety Brig Owens, kicker Mark Moseley and running back Bobby Mitchell.

Corner Darrell Green was the only active player named to the team. Current players had to be in their 10th year with the team to be eligible, eliminating running back Stephen Davis, the franchise's second-leading rusher behind John Riggins.

The quarterbacks shared the best stories. Kilmer recalled a time when he and Jurgensen were riding in their car when they spotted another car with an I Like Sonny bumper sticker. Kilmer flipped off the driver.

''When he saw Sonny in the car, he almost drove off the road,'' Kilmer recalled.

They saw another guy with an I Like Billy bumper sticker. And Jurgensen did the lone-digit honors this time.

''And that guy almost drove right off the road,'' Kilmer said.

Another time, Kilmer remembered being knocked from a game against Green Bay. Moments after he got to the sidelines, and just as Green Bay was about to punt the ball back to Washington, then-defensive back Richie Petitbon raced over to him, telling him he had to get back in the game.

''Sam Wyche is warming up behind you,'' Petitbon said, ''and he's already thrown two interceptions!''

Kilmer became popular, though it's not what he expected when he arrived via a trade with New Orleans in 1971. He expected to stay a year, playing out his contract, and head elsewhere. But Jurgensen got hurt in '71 and Kilmer guided Washington to the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Jurgensen learned of his trade to Washington while sitting in a Philadelphia delicatessen. He had just had a meeting with his Eagles coaches, who provided no hint of an impending trade--especially to what was a bad franchise at the time.

''It was a shock, it really was,'' said Jurgensen, a Hall of Famer and Redskins broadcaster.

His best memory: playing for Vince Lombardi in 1969. That season, Jurgensen completed a career-best 62 percent of his passes, throwing 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

''I don't think I forced a ball into coverage the entire year,'' Jurgensen said. ''Lombardi kept things simple. In Philadelphia we had 29 ways to run an end run, with formations and blocking schemes. Lombardi ran it one way.''

As for Theismann, he came to Washington in 1974 from the CFL. He spent some time returning punts, figuring that was his best way to get on the field. He once snuck on the field to return punts before Allen knew who was out there. Theismann also guided Washington to its first Super Bowl triumph.

''I was not the reason we had those glory years,'' Theismann said. ''Joe Gibbs went to Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks and won with three. I was the only one who lost for him [after the 1982 season]. But it was a very special time in Washington. We were all young and new and excited. I'm starting to see that same feeling again here under [coach Steve] Spurrier. There's an enthusiasm that hasn't been here for a long time.''

Monk echoed that sentiment.

''It's really piqued my interest in this season because of [Spurrier],'' he said. ''He'll be a receiver's dream. Whether or not they win we'll see. But it will be exciting.''

Because the ceremony honored Redskins greats, the question arose to Mitchell, an assistant general manager who has spent 40 years with the franchise, about who is the all-time best.

Mitchell didn't hesitate.

''There's only one guy it could be and that's Charley Taylor,'' Mitchell said. ''No one blocked better, no one ran better. No one took two and three people away. The guy just did it.''

As all these stories were told in the locker room, owner Daniel Snyder stood back and watched the gathering. ''It's very cool,'' he said. ''It brings out the fan in all of us who have loved the Redskins for decades. It takes me back to years when we weren't winning championships, but it was the history and the great emotions that were involved. This sure is a lot of fun.''

John Keim covers the Redskins for Insiders.com, the Journal Newspapers and Pro Football Weekly.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories