The Washington Redskins had a special visitor during Tuesday’s practice and none of the thousands of fans in attendance knew it.
While most in his shoes would have had adoring fans screaming his name and requesting his John Hancock, he stood there pensively observing the action on the field. Watching on as physical play and skirmishes broke out, 80 Greatest Redskin Mike Nelms looked on like everyone else.
Perhaps it was the hat he was wearing or his natural calm personality, but he seemed more than content with going incognito 30 years after making the same fans jump for joy after his 70-yard punt return against the Cowboys in the NFC Championship. His return helped the Redskins advance to their second Super Bowl appearance.
Nelms, who refused to settle for a fair catch and strictly followed the old traditional saying “football is a game of inches’, is second all-time in franchise history in total punt return yards (1,948) and led the NFL in combined kick and punt return yards in 1984 (1,288).
While he only played in Washington for four seasons, the impact he made on the team is still being felt today. Remove his contributions and the Redskins may only be a two-time Super Bowl champion right now.
As he watched on he recalled memories of when he was going through two-a-days in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Hogs legend Mark May started skirmishes like the one he saw as part of his daily routine.
“Mark May used to fight every day; every day,” Nelms said with a slight grin. “He was fighting somebody every night.”
May, drafted in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft, was a much larger 288 pounds during his playing days compared to his current size behind a studio desk at ESPN. Still, he wanted to prove a point that he wasn’t backing down from anyone.
“I don’t know if he was the instigator, but he said he wouldn’t take anything from anyone,” Nelms said. “I think half the time he was instigating. I wasn’t involved. I think they got involved because after the play was over, there was some pushing and shoving going on, but that’s now how I did it.”
The comparison of the facility at Carlisle to the one the Redskins have occupied over the last three weeks, is like apples and oranges. Nowadays, the players get the comforts of hotel rooms with large rooms and cable television. Nelms was lucky if he had time to talk on a pay phone.
“I like it. This is nice,” Nelms said with a smile. “It’s way better than Carlisle. We were in dorms in Carlisle. Please, there’s no comparison.”
Lesson of the day—wait to talk to Mark May in the mornings until it’s confirmed he’s already gotten his “business” out of the way.
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