Skins' Stokes sees opportunity as blessing

December 20, 1990|By Jack Mann | Jack Mann,Evening Sun Staff

HERNDON, Va. -- Fred Stokes is too sincerely a Christian to wish ill to a fellow man, especially a fellow Washington Redskin like Markus Koch.

But the way it works in professional football is that Koch's injured knee gives Stokes the chance to be the total man at right defensive end in the Hoosier Dome Saturday night.

"I will keep practicing as I always do, to make the best of it," Stokes said. "But it is an opportunity to go out there and make a statement."

There are statements in the record that suggest Stokes is a first-class pass-rusher, and that's not a bad job. It gets him base pay of $235,000 this year and $265,000 next. There is satisfaction in that for a 12th-round draft choice who was airily dismissed by the Rams two years ago.

"We're looking for big guys who can run and do multiple things," said a Rams coach as Stokes was left unprotected and became a Plan-B free agent.

Stokes could do such things, Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard said as he gave Stokes a bonus to sign, if he got stronger.

Stokes got stronger. Beginning strength coach Dan Riley's iron-pumping program ("Intense? Well, you have to take time out to throw up once in a while.") at 262 pounds in the spring of 1989, the 6-foot-3 Stokes came to training camp weighing 275 hard pounds.

He can't get fat, Stokes explained: "My metabolism is such that it doesn't matter how much I eat."

A substitute for the first 11 games last year, Stokes became full-time right end after Dexter Manley was suspended and Koch was hurt. In his first start, against the Bears, Stokes had seven tackles, forced one fumble and recovered another.

So, when the team assembled at Carlisle last July 28, Fred Stokes was a regular Redskin -- for three days. On the fourth day, in a morning practice with the Steelers, Stokes gave 282-pound tackle John Jackson all he wanted in a one-on-one workout. In a seven-on-seven drill in the afternoon, he tossed a running back backward.

"Then there was the trap play," Stokes recalled. An enthusiastic pulling guard blocked him in the shoulder. "Damage to the humeral joint," trainer Bubba Tyer said. "Posterior subluxation. It'll take some time."

Two and a half months later Stokes was wearing the shoulder harness Tyer found for him. But he had played, every game. The harness came off a month ago.

Stokes believes he can play all the downs and handle the running game, and as a matter of pride he wants to do it. "But not to prove anything," he said. "I always trust in God and I will be doing my best for him, because what pleases God will please everybody. Colossians, 3:17."

That scripture: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

It was unlikely, as recently as his second year at Georgia Southern, that Fred Stokes was ever going to be a football player. He wasn't until his senior year of high school in Vidalia, Ga., when a coach who had observed him in the band reasoned that a young man robust enough to march and play the tuba at the same time ought to be able to knock people down.

"I had played football as a little kid," Stokes said. "But my fascination was with basketball. I was a starter all four years in high school."

At Georgia Southern he was a tight end the first year. "I was still kind of avoiding football," Stokes said. Then he was converted to offensive tackle by Erk Russell, a tough coach who had been an assistant at Georgia. The story about the snakes is true, in a way, Stokes said.

The popular version is that Russell, failing to get the players' attention to his lecture on drugs, emptied a bag of rattlesnakes among them, the parable being that the snakes would be less harmful to them than the drugs.

"Actually he just dumped the snakes and we went every which way," Stokes recalled. "He talked about drugs later."

Since joining the Redskins and doing all those multiple things the Rams' management didn't think he could do, Fred Stokes has also displayed that mystic quality coaches call "being around the ball."

In his limited service last year he recovered two fumbles. This year he has recovered four, half the team's total. "Alertness? I suppose," Stokes said. "Quickness, paying attention. Or maybe it's just another blessing."

*

Cornerback Darrell Green, "getting old" but as fast as ever, he says, is one of the Redskins elected by his peers to the Pro Bowl.

Offensive tackle Jim Lachey, for the second year in a row, is also a first-teamer. Named alternates were wide receiver Gary Clark and running back Earnest Byner.

* Gerald Riggs, with Brian Mitchell still attending his stricken father, took "a lot of work and did well" in practice, coach Joe Gibbs said. It is "possible" he might be activated for Saturday's game, Gibbs said.

* Offensive lineman Scott Beavers, who was cut by the Redskins Tuesday, has been signed by Denver.

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