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Jay Schroeder’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Relief Effort

Posted by Stephen Czarda on July 15, 2013 – 3:18 pm

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[With 10 days until the start of training camp, we take a look back at the career of quarterback Jay Schroeder. Schroeder spent four seasons with the Washington Redskins where he threw for a franchise-high 4,109 yards in 1986. His greatest performance, however, came against the New York Giants one season before.]

For anyone that has been keeping tabs on this series in recent weeks, you have seen us remember some of the greatest players in franchise history by profiling their career achievements with the Washington Redskins. In conjunction with their jersey numbers, we have counted all the way down to now 10 days until the start of the team’s first training camp in Richmond.

While players such as Mark Murphy and Eddie LeBaron, among others, generated prestige around the numbers they donned for the Burgundy and Gold, picking any other player over the first 79 years of the franchise’s existence who wore No. 10 and isn’t Robert Griffin III is a difficult one to do.

In the years that will follow Griffin III’s faraway retirement, the blog highlighting his career will be as definite as him “Griffining” dozens more times for Redskins Nation. But for now, we will remember Jay Schroeder’s four-year stint with the Washington Redskins to include the most memorable moment of his football career—replacing an injured Joe Theismann on Monday Night Football.

The first time Jay Schroeder’s name rung in the ears of the football world was back in 1980 when he was a member of the UCLA Bruins.

For the majority of his time in Los Angeles, Schroeder was a backup to future NFL quarterback Tom Ramsey. In his sophomore season, however, Schroeder got his first taste of collegiate game action—against archrival USC.

“The Battle of L.A.” is one of the most heated rivals in college football as the two schools call the city home. Since 1929 the two institutions have met 82 times, but none more heart stopping then their 1980 matchup.

Going into the game, the Trojans were riding a five-game winning streak against the Bruins and were confident that victory six was a foregone conclusion. Late in the fourth quarter, however, Schroeder finally gave UCLA its day in the sun with a miracle 58-yard touchdown to Freeman McNeil.

It was Schroeder’s grandest collegiate moment as he decided to pursue baseball following the season’s conclusion. He had actually been drafted with the third overall pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in high school but decided to attended college and continue balancing the life of a two sport student-athlete.

The pressure, however, of playing sports year-round became overwhelming and he came to the conclusion baseball was better for his long-term future.

After three seasons, though, and a paltry .213 batting average at the A level, Schroeder put his catcher’s glove on the shelf and entered himself into the 1984 NFL Draft where the Redskins selected him with the 83rd pick.

Schroeder’s initial role with the Redskins was set in stone—backup two-time Pro Bowler Joe Theismann. The plan went exactly as it had been drawn up through the entire 1984 season and the first 11 weeks of the 1985 season, as No. 7 took 778 of the 787 snaps from under center. As anyone knows though, football is full of surprises and unsung heroes can be born at nearly any moment no matter the circumstances.

Jay Schroeder became a hero for the Washington Redskins went almost nobody’s mind was on football. 4797_001

In a Monday Night Football tilt against the Giants, Theismann went down with a career-ending leg injury. While Schroeder had waited for his opportunity to take the reins of a perennial Super Bowl contender, he never expected to be thrust into action after a severe injury sustained by the starter.

On Schroeder’s first pass attempt, however, he gave the faithful in attendance at RFK Stadium a moment to get their minds off the injury—with a 44-yard completion to Art Monk.

Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs later told Vito Stellino of The Baltimore Sun what was running through his mind when Schroeder entered the game.

“I think everybody was kind of waiting to see what would happen. Is he going to respond or are we going to take the gas pipe? I was watching, and when the ball took off, I think everybody on the sideline jumped. Everybody said ‘Hey, we may take a run at this.’ I think everybody was excited.”

Schroeder excelled in the pressure packed game, connecting on 13 of his 20 pass attempts for 221 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown to Clint Didier late in the fourth quarter that put the Redskins up for good.

“It was like a fairy tale,” Gibbs told The Sporting News about Schroeder’s performance. “Really. To be thrown into that situation and perform like that.”

Schroeder would remain the starter for the Redskins for the rest of the season posting a 4-1 record, but as is always the case with the NFC East, lost out on a postseason berth even at 10-6.

The former UCLA star’s only full season as starting quarterback came in 1986 when he threw for a franchise record 4,109 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Redskins finished the year with a 12-4 record and their fourth playoff appearance in five seasons before losing to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game.

In 1987, No. 10 separated his shoulder in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite returning to the field a few weeks later, the nagging injury caught up to him and eventual made way for Doug Williams to come in and lead Washington to a Super Bowl XXII victory.

In his four seasons in Washington, Schroeder compiled a 24-7 record, nearly 7,500 passing yards, 43 touchdowns and a Pro Bowl appearance.

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