They came from Washington, D.C., and beyond. Way beyond. Some of the pilgrimages began in Orange County, Calif., and others in Murphy, N.C., where a white-haired couple began driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains some nine hours earlier.
"After all the memories, we had to see them go in," said Bill Garrod as his wife, Nancy, nodded in agreement, hours before Art Monk and Darrell Green were to be enshrined Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bill wore one of those Super Bowl T-shirts with the caricatured mugs of Washington Redskins from another era. There was Charles Mann. And Earnest Byner, Ricky Sanders and, of course, the ebullient and grinning Green.
Redskins fans overwhelmed this lush, northeastern Ohio town about an hour south of Cleveland with numbers and passion, thousands of fans clad in burgundy and gold hats, jerseys, assorted paraphernalia and, yes, Halloween masks — dwarfing other Hall of Fame inductees' fans, transforming Canton into a rollicking yet respectful FedEx Field tailgate.
Soon after the national anthem was sang, 2007 inductee Michael Irvin took the podium — and was booed long and lustily, as if the former Dallas Cowboys wideout still were standing across the line of scrimmage from Green.
The announced attendance for the ceremony at Fawcett Stadium was 16,654 and, according to NFL broadcaster and former coach Steve Mariucci, "It's 95 percent Washington Redskin jerseys!"
The fans' journey to the cradle of pro football to pay homage to Monk and Green began less in a place than a time, when the Redskins frequently were atop the NFL, led by groups of men nicknamed "the Fun Bunch" and "the Hogs." Among the most skilled of them were Green, the loquacious, lightning-quick cornerback who played longer for the Redskins than any player, and Monk, the sure-handed wide receiver who let his solid play speak for him.
Monk and Green were enshrined with former New England linebacker Andre Tippett; Gary Zimmerman, an offensive lineman for Minnesota and Denver; Fred Dean, the pass-rushing demon of San Diego and San Francisco; and Kansas City cornerback Emmitt Thomas, who also mentored Green for eight seasons as an assistant coach with the Redskins.
Monk's selection in February to Canton was the culmination of a rejection process that went on for almost a decade. Monk resigned himself to being known as the durable yet often unspectacular pro, the guy who did not have enough go-long highlights to impress a suddenly pass-happy league.
Never mind that Monk held the NFL's career record for receptions for two years, that he had five seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards and that he caught seven balls for 113 yards in Super XXVI. For seven years, it didn't matter.
"I think the first year was probably the worst, because there was so much anticipation from my community, all the fans, just saying, 'Oh, you've got it made, you're a shoo-in,' " Monk said. "It's taken eight years. But regardless of how long it's taken, it's good to be here."
Green's induction came almost as quickly as the blinding speed of the player four times named "the NFL's fastest man." He was enshrined the first year he was eligible to be inducted.
Before every team had an army of strength and speed coaches, Green once ran a 40-yard dash in an unheard-of time of 4.17 seconds.
He played 20 years with the Redskins, an NFL record for years spent with one team, equaled only by former Rams offensive lineman Jackie Slater. His seven Pro Bowl selections were buttressed by 54 career interceptions.
The fans that invaded Canton this weekend all had their favorite Green and Monk moments, ranging from Green's spectacular punt return against the Chicago Bears in a 1988 playoff game — he winced in pain from a rib injury as he crossed the goal line — to Monk's record-setting reception against the Denver Broncos at RFK Stadium on "Monday Night Football" in 1992, after which Monk's teammates interrupted the game to carry him on their shoulders.
"So I guess that would be the most memorable for me," Monk said.
Hall of Fame Game WHO: Washington Redskinsvs. Indianapolis Colts.WHEN: 8 tonight.WHERE: Canton, Ohio.TV: NBC 10 12.On Page D11 Preview of Skins- Colts. Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to have the Packers- Brett Favre situation resolved by Monday. Roundup.
The Monk file ART MONKPOSITION: Wide receiver.YEARS WITH REDSKINS: 1980-1993.NOTABLE: Was a first-round pick in the 1980 draft by the Redskins (18th overall). ... Has 12,721 career receiving yards. ... Is a three-time Super Bowl champion.The Green file DARRELL GREENPOSITION: Cornerback.YEARS WITH REDSKINS: 1983-2002.NOTABLE: Was a first-round pick in the 1983 draft by the Redskins (28th overall). ... Is a two-time Super Bowl champion. ... Is one of two players in NFL history to play for the same team for 20 seasons.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times