Note: The Redskins Blog will be profiling several former players, coaches and team officials eligible to be voted by you, the fans, in this year’s Redskins 80th Anniversary celebration. To vote for LaVar Arrington or your 10 other all-timers to join the already-chosen list of the 70 Greatest Redskins, go to http://www.redskins80th.com/
He chose to wear No. 56 to pay tribute to Pro Bowl linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.
So selecting that number could bring lofty expectations for any rookie.
Turns out LaVar Arrington didn’t disappoint.
In his six seasons with the Redskins, Arrington earned three consecutive Pro Bowl berths from 2001 to 2003 and amassed 22.5 sacks — including leading all linebackers with 11 in 2002 — as well as 10 forced fumbles and three interceptions.
Along the way, Arrington became known as one of the league’s hardest hitters whose game face alone (see above) was enough to intimidate any opposing player who dared touch the football in his presence.
“(Arrington) has a knack for making guys reassess their career goals,” Philadelphia Eagles’ linebacker Shawn Barber said in a 2002 Rolling Stone piece.
Arrington, a Pittsburgh native, was an elite athlete coming out of high school, where he was a big-time running back as well as a star in basketball and track.
He attended Penn State University and added his name to the long list of great student-athletes to play for “Linebacker U” under coach Joe Paterno. One of the most dominating college players of his era, Arrington became only the 12th player in school history to earn consecutive All-America honors.
He was selected second overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft. After getting his feet wet in a rookie season in which he played in all 16 games — starting 11 — with 52 tackles and four sacks, Arrington exploded onto the scene in the 2001 season. That year, playing less as a rush linebacker, Arrington totaled a career-high 99 tackles, three interceptions and six pass deflections. One of those interceptions he returned 67 yards for a touchdown. For his efforts, Arrington earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
The 2002 season was perhaps Arrington’s most dominant in the NFL, as the 24 year old collected 92 tackles, a career-high 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and deflected eight passes. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown that year.
Arrington followed up his 2002 Pro Bowl season with another postseason trip to Hawaii in 2003, when he had 88 tackles, six sacks and a career-best six forced fumbles and 10 passes deflected.
Perhaps fittingly, Arrington earned high praise from many along the way. His former coach, Marty Schottenhemier, said Arrington had “the power of Lawrence Taylor and the speed of Derrick Thomas.”
In a 2004 edition of The Sporting News “Pro Football Tough Guys,” offensive lineman said Arrington “hits people to knock people out. You could put a highlight reel of his on tape and you’d go, ‘Man, that’s a football player.’ He might be the hardest hitter in football right now. He packs a bigger wallop than John Lynch.”
After digging through Arrington’s files here at Redskins Park, I found this 2004 cover of Athlon Sports ProFootball Magazine in which Arrington shares cover boy honors with another great linebacker:
With that, we at the Redskins would also like to wish LaVar a happy 34th birthday.
Tags: lavar arrington, linebacker, Redskins 80th Anniversary, washington redskins
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