NFC East: Fred Dean
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|Art Monk, formerly of the Washington Redskins, takes the stage during the Class of 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Fawcett Stadium.|
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
CANTON -- Darrell Green summed up the 2008 Hall of Fame commencements best on Saturday.
"It's a Redskins day, baby!" Green said.
The sea of burgundy and gold jerseys filled Fawcett Stadium in anticipation of Green and former Washington Redskins teammate Art Monk entering into the Hall of Fame. Both received lengthy standing ovations before and after their speeches.
Jared Green, Darrell's youngest son , estimated that "95 percent" of the announced crowd of 16,654 were Redskins fans, and his guess was pretty close.
There were a wealth of Green and Monk jerseys, and a good mix of jerseys from current Washington players that will take the field Sunday in its preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts.
Green and Monk didn't disappoint. The pair were never as flashy as their contemporaries but were winners in every since of the word. Similar to their playing careers, Monk and Green were very consistent in delivering quality speeches.
There were many similarities Saturday.
Both Green and Monk had their sons introduce them. Both speeches were enlightening and charismatic. Both shared their experience with those that helped them.
And both players went into the Hall as proud Redskins.
"I will always be known as a Redskin," Monk said. "That's right."
Added Green, "To the Redskins faithful, our fans, I share this day with all of you."
Green was the only first-ballot Hall of Famer in the 2008 class. His case was undeniable after 20 stellar seasons, most of which he was the league's fastest man and one of the NFL's best cornerbacks.
But Monk's case was debated over the past several years. His candidacy was rebuked seven times by the Hall of Fame committee, despite Monk statistically ranking among the best at his position.
Monk had 940 career catches for 12,721 yards. His reception total is more than any receiver currently enshrined in Canton. But Monk only was a first-team All-Pro one time, in addition to his three Pro Bowls.
Monk also was never accommodating with the media during his 16-year career, which likely had a hand in his delayed entrance.
Fellow Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, also one of the greatest receivers of all time, believes Monk's case should've never been up for debate.
"Art Monk has had a stellar career," Warfield said. "I saw Art perhaps two weeks ago at an event and congratulated him. It's well deserved. He was statistically a leader until his marks were broken, and he should have been in a long time ago.
"I told Art, 'It doesn't matter, because now you're here.' And that's the most important thing. He deserved to be here and now he's a part of this very prestigious fraternity."
Monk briefly addressed his situation during his commencement speech.
"Now standing next to them, as one of them, is truly an honor,'' Monk said. "Getting here didn't come without consequences. But through it all I'm here with a greater appreciation for something that not every player wasn't able to achieve.
But finally being inducted had to be worth it for Monk, who received the longest-standing ovation of the night.
Redskins fans chanted "Eighty-one!" and "Thank you Monk!" as he smiled and soaked it all in. One sign read "A work of Art" to describe Monk's career as he smiled and enjoyed the elongated appreciation from Redskins fans.
"From the time I picked up a football, I loved this game," Monk said. "It's all I wanted to do."
Overall, this was a day when being long in the tooth was celebrated.
Longevity is the most elusive feat in the National Football League, yet it is the rare common thread that binds the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame class together this weekend.
Green, Monk, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippet, Emmitt Thomas and Fred Dean combined for an astounding 84 years of NFL experience.
But it was the 36 years played by a pair of Redskins that brought a majority of today's onlookers to Canton, a city rich in football history.
"The Redskin Nation sticks together," Green said.
They sure do.