With Monk, there's just one catch: quiet excellence

October 14, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- For 13 years, Art Monk has been virtually the Stepford Receiver.

He appeared to be almost a robot, making catch after catch with machine-like efficiency, but almost never showing emotion on the field.

When he finally climbed to the top of his profession Monday night, the 34-year-old Washington Redskins receiver finally let his emotions show.

After he caught seven passes in a 34-3 rout of the Denver Broncos to boost his career total to 820 -- one more than the 819 by Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks -- Monk said the pursuit of the record had touched him.

He first showed it on the field when he flashed a big smile as his teammates lifted him onto their shoulders.

He then talked about it, which was unusual in itself. He rarely gives interviews -- particularly after games, when he normally ducks out of the back door of the locker room.

On Monday night, he gave a rare glimpse of his mind-set.

"I usually don't let these kinds of things bother me, but there was so much talk about it," Monk said. "No matter how much you try not to think about something, if someone is constantly reminding you and telling you about something, it's hard to keep it out of your mind.

"I was really nervous before the ballgame. But I was really pumped up, too, and excited, mostly because I knew it was a big game for us. At the same time, I was nervous because I didn't want to drop any balls. You just don't know how good it feels to get this over with."

Charley Taylor, a Redskins assistant coach, could understand the emotions Monk was feeling. He held the record from 1975 through 1984 before his mark of 649 catches was topped by Charlie Joiner.

"He was so happy with that thing last night," Taylor said. "Any time you do something, no matter what it is, that no other man has done [it is special]. That's the key to it right there, that's the part that's going to stick with him: 'I'm treading water where nobody's been before.' It's a great feeling to accomplish that. Anyone in the profession wants to be on top for just a little while."

Monk's teammates were honored just to be a part of it. As quarterback Mark Rypien, who threw him the record-breaker, said: "Probably in the year 2010, in a bar somewhere, they'll ask who the heck threw Art Monk that record-breaking pass."

Rypien is the eighth quarterback to throw passes to Monk Besides the obvious names (Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, Stan Humphries, Jeff Rutledge and Rypien), he also caught passes from Mike Kruczek and Tom Flick and one from wide receiver Ricky Sanders.

Coach Joe Gibbs tried to get Monk the record in the fourth quarter after the Redskins had wrapped up the game because he wanted to take the burden off Monk.

"I don't think he was comfortable with that [attention]," Gibbs said. "Probably a lot of guys would like the attention. I don't think Art particularly enjoys it. It puts him in a little tougher position, because he doesn't like to talk to people anyway. I think it was a strain for him."

Monk remains something of a mystery man even to Gibbs.

"Art doesn't talk to me a lot either. Art's not volunteering a lot. He's very quiet. That's his personality. He's not going to come to you and get involved in a lot of conversations," Gibbs said, though he added: "I think he's got a natural funny bone. You see him laughing a lot with his teammates."

Even though Monk is No. 1 in catches, it's difficult to judge his place in history. He's not noted for the spectacular catch or the spectacular game.

"I've kind of been the control type of receiver, catching a lot of 5-10-15-yard routes, being able to stay healthy has made a big difference," he said.

For most of his career, he's been part of the three-receiver Posse, and Gary Clark and Sanders have been noted for the more spectacular plays.

Sanders, not Monk, set the record for Super Bowl receiving yards (193) in Super Bowl XXII that was later broken by Jerry Rice. Rice, who's made 549 catches, also is likely to surpass Monk eventually, and Clark, who has 509, also may do it.

The Redskins have won three Super Bowls, but Monk missed the first with an injury, saw limited duty in the second with another injury and is remembered in last season's Super Bowl for having a touchdown reception overturned by instant replay. Monk's record-breaking night was a microcosm of his career. He had seven unspectacular catches, but Clark and Sanders each made the kind of plays that show up in highlight films. Clark had a 44-yard touchdown reception, and Sanders leaped for a high pass and caught it after he fell on his back.

Taylor, who had a memorable game in the Redskins' 26-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1972 NFC title game, would like to see Monk get that kind of signature game before he retires.

"If we get back in the playoffs this year, maybe he can rectify that," Taylor said. "He needs that kind of game. I think that's probably the only thing that's missing. With that, he'd be a no-doubter."

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