OXON HILL, Md. -- Former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien choked back tears as a day filled with meaning conflicted with one that also represented his worst. Sixteen years ago to the day, he said as his voice cracked, his 3-year-old son, Andrew, died of a brain tumor.
Being the 46th member of the Redskins' Ring of Fame clearly won't ease the pain that was still evident. It does, however, add a small dose of positive memories.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for picking my spirits up," Rypien, the former Super Bowl MVP, told the crowd at the Redskins' Alumni Welcome Home Luncheon. "I'll remember this day forever."
Rypien played quarterback for Washington from 1986-93, helping the Redskins win the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. That season, he threw for 3,564 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions -- while getting sacked just nine times.
"One person isn't going to carry a team, but it definitely was a great era and very humbled, very honored to be part of the names that are up there," Rypien said. "Going into the stadium and seeing all these names, I realize the magnitude of what this day is for me. Wow. This is great. When they hoist that name up there, there are 52 other guys who are just as deserving. I'm very fortunate to have played with that group of guys."
Rypien said he'll be inducted on Oct. 19 when the Redskins host Tennessee. That weekend also will give him time to reminisce with former teammates, perhaps talking about their Super Bowl victory over Buffalo. It's a day that still carries great meaning for him.
Rypien recalled how long that day was and remembers the practices being tougher than the games.
"That Thursday practice where I twisted an ankle and didn't know if I would play Sunday, our practice was as intense as the game itself," he said. "It was a long day. I thought I was the only one up at 5 o'clock having a coffee and I go downstairs and there's 20 other players in our breakfast room in the hotel who couldn't sleep either."
Rypien said around 7 a.m. that he, Chip Lohmiller and Erik Williams went to the stadium to take a nap. That way, he joked, they knew they wouldn't miss the game if they fell asleep.
Then he recalled the adrenaline at kickoff and the first offensive series.
"I got smoked two of the first three plays," he said. "I came to the sidelines and said, ‘What the heck is going on here?' [Jeff] Bostic says, ‘Don't worry, don't worry. We'll wear them down. They got adrenaline too.' His vote of confidence helped me because I'm thinking if this game is like this, I don't know what this is. I'm throwing on a three-step drop and getting annihilated. That wasn't part of what happened that year. I cracked a rib that first series."
But he wound up being the Super Bowl MVP, throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-24 victory. And now his name will hang in the stadium forever. That it was announced on a day that has the most painful of memories left him emotional.
"Very humbled," Rypien said. "Very appreciative of the guys that were able to do the things we were able to do."