Quiet man’s reward: Monk heads to Hall of Fame
And he did his job extremely well, catching more passes than anyone before him. Those who knew him well were outraged when the Washington Redskins receiver was passed over seven times in Pro Football Hall of Fame voting.
Now he’s in on try No. 8, with induction Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
He’s also become the poster boy for the athlete who maybe gets the unfair shake because he isn’t flashy and doesn’t have much to say.
“I don’t know if it’s society that likes it or the media that draws attention to those type of people, people who are self-promoting and just kind of always out in front: ‘Look at me,”’ Monk said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“They seem to get the attention. But for guys like myself, I don’t care. That’s just not who I am. That’s not what I’m about. I’m not doing it for recognition. I’m doing it because I love this sport, and I want to win and do the best I can. If you do that, people will recognize you.”
Uncomfortable in a black tie or behind a microphone, few players looked more at ease on the field than Monk. Need to move the chains on third down? He’d go over the middle and get the first down. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver was bigger and stronger than most of his speedy, agile contemporaries, so catching a pass in traffic was no problem.
He set NFL records for most catches in a season (106) and most consecutive games with a reception (164). He became the all-time receptions leader with his 820th catch in 1992 and finished with 940. His records have since been broken, but mainly because rules and philosophy changes have led to a wide-open era in the passing game.
The 1980 first-round draft pick made the Pro Bowl three consecutive years (1984-86), and the Redskins won the Super Bowl three times during his 14 seasons with the team. He retired in 1995 after anticlimactic seasons with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles.
So why the lack of appreciation?
Maybe it was because Monk’s best years came when the Redskins didn’t win the NFL title. Maybe it was because fellow “Posse” members Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders were perceived as doing the heavy lifting, getting the big gainers and touchdowns.
Monk’s big game stats have been criticized, but he had a 40-yard reception in the 1988 Super Bowl win over Denver, and caught seven passes for 113 yards in the 1992 title game victory over Buffalo.
“There’s all kind of theories,” said cornerback Darrell Green, Monk’s longtime Redskins teammate and fellow Hall of Fame inductee this year. “He didn’t talk to the media. He was quiet. He didn’t have the prime-time play. He was ‘First down, Redskins.’ I’ve heard it all.
“As one who played against him, he’s in the top echelon of the receivers, that’s a given. His numbers spoke for themselves. His longevity spoke for itself. His class spoke for itself.”
Monk remained typically quiet during his seven-year wait for the Hall of Fame nod, but his selection has opened a flood of emotions. At a Redskins reception for Monk and Green shortly following their election, Monk donned a white shirt and diagonal-striped tie and went to the podium before his ex-teammate.
“I’m going to go first,” Monk said, “since I’m the one who’s shortest on words.”
Everyone laughed, but Monk then did the astonishing, speaking uninterrupted for 12 minutes. He cracked jokes. He was eloquent and captivating. He seemed overwhelmed at receiving an honor he said he wasn’t expecting.
“I had just written it off,” Monk said, “as I had done the last few years. … It’s more than a title. It’s humbling. And it’s something hopefully I can live up to.”
Monk and Green then launched a joint multicity tour to raise money for their respective charitable foundations, a cause that offered a rare case of Monk reluctantly playing the extrovert at public functions.
“I’ve never been one to draw attention to myself,” Monk said. “I think it comes from my parents. They’re both not necessarily quiet, but they didn’t boast about themselves. They just worked. They worked hard. It’s all they ever knew, and they instilled that in me. That’s kind of the approach that I took. I kept my head down and worked hard and just did my best.”