Art Monk, MO’s all-time favorite football player (or pro athlete in any sport, for that matter) will be considered today for enshrinement in the NFL Hall of Fame. He was a finalist last year, but was eliminated in the first round of voting.
In a career spanning 16 seasons (the first of of which were in Washington) Monk was a possession receiver who, when he retired, held the record for NFL receptions in a season and in a career. Both records have both since been broken by today’s pass-happy offenses. He played on three Super Bowl championship teams, although he was injured and did not play in Washington’s first Super Bowl triumph after the 1982 season.
Art Monk was a class act all the way. He was not overly vocal or excitable, and he quietly went about his business of catching footballs. Little slants and outs were what he was best at, and he’d take you down the field six and seven yards at a time. This quiet demeanor and workman-like performance probably hurt Monk’s chances to reach the Hall, although he has more catches than anyone currently on the rolls in Canton.
Two virtually-certain inductees, John Elway and Barry Sanders, were known for their flair and their knack for making the big play with the game on the line. What’s forgotten about them, as we look back a their glory years with fond memories, are the interceptions thrown, the tackles behind the line of scrimmage while trying to work some magic, and the fact that their entire team went as they went. John Elway off today? Well, the Broncos probably won’t win. Barry Sanders is more or less shut down? The Lions are toast.
That wasn’t the case with Mr. Monk. He’d line up on every play. He’d run his route. They’d throw his direction from time to time, and he’s usually make the catch. And if it was third and seven? He knew better than to run a six-yard route. He had a feel for the first-down marker and for the sideline, and he used his skills and his height (especially since most wide receivers and the cornerbacks who covered them were 5’10” smurfs – Monk is 6’3) to get the tough yards.
More often than not, the Redskins would win. And Monday morning you’d be looking over the box scores and say “Art Monk had eight catches? Are you kidding? I only remember two or three.” And that’s why Monk might have a hard time getting into the Hall.
Monk had a touchdown taken away in the Super Bowl against Buffalo after the 1991 season, and I was disappointed. I knew that that was probably his last real chance to grab a score in the big game. The call was controversial, but largely forgotten in the wake of Washington’s destruction of the Bills that afternoon.
I hope that a similar call by the electors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn’t relegate Monk’s career to an overlooked bit of trivia as flashier and higher-profile stars jet into the halls of Canton.
UPDATE: Monk didn’t make it to the finalist stage once again. John Elway, Barry Sanders, Bob Brown, and Carl Eller were voted in. Congrats to some very deserving players.