Many Washington Redskins alumni are committed to community service in the greater Washington area. Here are some of the views of five former Redskins players who value service. Topics included slavery in Africa, human suffering, education, youth leadership initiatives, Redskins Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs and mood-altering chemical abuse.
Darrell Green, Washington Redskins cornerback, 2008 Pro Hall of Fame Inductee, (1983-2002).
During his playing days, Green started the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, which is still in existence.
“People, giving and service, should be paramount,” said Green.
“It doesn’t matter where you grow up at. Hurting people are everywhere. … Your bank account doesn’t determine whether you’re hurting. There are people dying tonight that have a big bank account. Letters behind their name. Struggling and suffering mentally, emotionally, and then there are those people suffering because ‘I can’t pay my rent. I can’t buy my food.’ Suffering has an equal-opportunity role. That’s my position.”
“Probably even in this country…so we don’t have to go to Africa,” Green said in reference to slavery. “Regardless of what continent you’re talking about. Injured, hurting people, emotionally. And every other way … Service is people giving back regardless of their race, their creed, their color. That’s what… it’s about.”
Clarence Vaughn, Redskins safety, (1987-1992)
Vaughn played with the Redskins during Joe Gibbs’ first coaching run, drafted in the eighth round at tiny Northern Illinois University, yet he went on to play on two Redskins Super Bowl championships. Since his playing days, he has been a coach, and he runs the Get NFL Ready Youth Foundation. “We’ve done some in Montgomery County and MCPS. A lot of football camps in those areas.”
Service is “very rewarding,” Vaughn said. “When I got out of football, I did a football camp, and I did a football school in Colorado, and this kid came up to me and said ‘Wow, I really learned something, coach.’ But I didn’t really think he learned anything at the time. But the fact that he told me at the end of the season and said, ‘Yeah, I really appreciate,’ made me want to start giving back some of the things I learn to help me through my struggles.”
Vaughn’s perspective is realistic. “Yougot totake the good with the bad. You got to have a lot of laughter. A lot of enjoyment to do that. Yeah, there’s always bad stuff. You have to have the good. The whole goal is to make the world a better place.”
Brig Owens, Redskins safety, Washington Redskins Ring of Fame, (1966-1977)
When there is a Redskins fundraiser, Owens is there. Owens is president and founder of the D.C.-based Super Leaders, an educational nonprofit.
“Athletes have been very involved in this community for a very long time. I have a youth leadership program that is going on for its 30th year. Called ‘Super Leaders.’ We have a high school graduation rate of 98 percent … Seventy-five percent go on to college or trade school or emergency services … solid citizens…”
Owens said he draws from experience when giving speeches. “Without question, I’m one of 13 kids. … Grew up in a very tough neighborhood, Orange County.”
Owens preaches education, saying, “It’s all education. None can take it anyway from you. Not everyone is going to be a pro athlete. Very small percentage. And not everyone going to make it. The average career for pro football is three years. For baseball, it’s four.”
And his organization is very active in education, as Owens said. “We do it all. SAT prep. College search. All those kinds of things. We try to prepare them. We try to talk about all the colleges that are available out there. And start with the community colleges. You just got to buy your books. And what we do we help them get their books. They’re the small schools, HBCUs, they’re the large schools, but the main thing is to get in and take it month by month. We tell ’em don’t come home and call us until you get homesick. Call us from school.”
Dexter Manley, Washington Redskins defensive end, 1981-1989.
Manley has had the rockiest road of any Redskins alumni. He had a history of pitfalls with substance abuse. He has been embraced by the Redskins community and is now taking a leadership role in telling his story and preaching the dangers of mood-altering chemicals.
Manley sees service as a lifelong passion. “Everybody can serve, but you got to have a passion what’s within you to reach out and serve … This is what I’m about. When I came to town here in 1981, Joe Gibbs had his foundation here, and I saw him do a lot of great service work. And he was going to some of these homes and talking to some of these young fellas, and I was inspired by that. I got a chance to see what service was about and watching Joe Gibbs where it has taken him to. It’s good to reach back out and help someone else.”
“I think any type of cause is great. … Anything that has to do with educating about mood-altering chemicals, I lend my hand in any capacity. … I think any time a person can do some kind of service work to help themselves, to help the community, we can be a better nation. Because I think that’s what is kind of driving our country … I think people should be kind to each other.”
RaleighMcKenzie, Redskins guard, Hog, (1985-1994)
McKenzie represents the offensive line for this article, a stalwart of the Redskins of the 1980s and early 1990s. McKenzie said his service centers on the youth. “That’s always the case. That’s why we really do it. I know it’s just a cliché, but as my buddies say, ‘it’s for the kids.’”
“We don’tlook to get paid forit. Or some kind of notoriety. We do this on an annual basis, and when we see the same kids the next year, ‘they’re just so excited.’ They remember your names.They research. They know all the past players. They look forward to it.”