The Art Monk Hall of Fame Campaign

February 24, 2006

Gosselin: Monk Taylor-Made for the Hall of Fame (1992)

Filed under: Voter Articles — DjTj @ 12:10 pm

Rick Gosselin was among many sportswriters that thought Monk was destined for the Hall of Fame in 1992: 

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Dallas Morning News
September 5, 1992
Monk taylor-made for Hall of Fame
Rick Gosselin

It was Draft Day 1980, and the anticipation level at Redskins Park was at a suffocating height.

The Washington Redskins had a first-round draft pick. Finally.

Forget that it was the 17th overall selection – too late to grab one of the franchise players in the draft. It would be the first time the Redskins had a No. 1 pick in an NFL draft since 1968.

General Manager Bobby Beathard had identified the areas of need on his 10-6 team – an aging pass rush, no speed in the backfield and the lack of a deep threat. The depth in the draft was at running back, and popular local opinion had the Redskins using their pick on Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, Joe Cribbs or Vagas Ferguson.

Instead, the Redskins claimed a former running back, Art Monk of Syracuse. It was a bit of a projection because Monk had been a runner until his senior year, when he was switched to wide receiver. He posted modest numbers in his one season on the flank – 40 catches and three touchdowns – and appeared to be a reach by the Redskins.

But not in Beathard’s mind. At the news conference after the pick, Beathard said Monk “can come real close” to being another Charley Taylor. Talk about putting a young player on the spot. Taylor had retired from the Redskins just two seasons earlier as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver.

Thirteen years later, Monk has not come close to Taylor – he has zoomed past him. And with 19 more receptions this season, Monk will have sped past everyone else, too. He ranks second on pro football’s all-time receiving list with 801 catches. Only Steve Largent has more.

“I knew I had some ability,” Monk said. “But I didn’t know whether I’d be able to compete at this level. When I signed my first contract, I thought I’d play out those years and that would be it. But I got excited, got some confidence in myself and wanted to play some more.”

Before Monk could begin his quest for records in 1980, he needed the stamp of approval of players whose records he would chase. Beathard was sold on Monk but wanted two other members of the organization to study him – administrative assistant Bobby Mitchell and Taylor, who was then a scout.

Mitchell and Taylor made successful switches from running back to wide receiver during their careers with the Redskins. Mitchell made the move in his fifth season in 1962 and Taylor in his third season in 1966.

Both were good running backs – Mitchell went to the Pro Bowl once and Taylor was the NFL Rookie of the Year – but both became Hall of Fame receivers. Mitchell retired in 1969 as the NFL’s second all-time leading receiver with 521 catches. Taylor retired in 1978 on top with 649.

Who better to judge Monk’s star potential than the in-house experts on switching positions and catching passes? So Mitchell went up to Syracuse to see Monk in the fall, and Taylor made the trip in the winter.

For Mitchell, visiting Monk was like revisiting his former teammate Taylor. They had similar size (6-3, 210), speed and strength. They also were dynamic after the catch.

“I liked Art’s run ability,” Mitchell said. “As soon as he got the ball, you could see him divorce himself from the defensive player. Even if he ran a bad pattern, if the ball got there, he would still separate himself. He looked like a natural.”

So Mitchell gave thumbs up to Beathard.

Taylor saw a slightly more polished version of Monk when he visited Syracuse. Monk had a full season at the position by then. He still had a long way to go, but Taylor liked his chances. He also gave Monk his nod of approval.

“His talent was obvious,” Taylor said.

It took Monk five years before he slapped his name at the top of his profession with a 106-catch, 1,372-yard season in 1984. It gave him his only NFL receiving crown and first Pro Bowl berth. He has had four 1,000-yard seasons and two Pro Bowl berths since.

Monk has delivered for the Redskins in a variety of capacities. Early in his career, he was the club’s deep threat. But when Washington signed speedy Smurfs Clark and Sanders out of the USFL in the mid-1980s, Monk became the possession receiver. So he has been as flexible in the scheme as he has been productive in it.

Monk has averaged 66 catches per season in his career. But he has picked up the pace in his pursuit of Largent. Since hitting age 30, Monk has averaged 74 catches per year.

“I’ve always thought of Art as the Joe DiMaggio of football,” Casserly said. “DiMaggio always had the reputation of being a class act. He was a great player who never said much or showed much emotion.

“People might say well, Joe DiMaggio was a great player. But this guy’s stats were great, too, if not better. When you add it up in the end, you’ll have a guy who had the most catches in a season and in a career, three (Super Bowl) rings and no reason to not be in the Hall of Fame.”

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