I started off just wanting to be a good football player like most kids would like to be. I realized that God had more for me. Some of you may know that, back in the day just before free agency came, I found myself praying about the possibility of going with another team, participate in free agency just like everyone else. God said no, don’t participate in that, so I found myself here, with the idea that if I didn’t play here I wouldn’t play anywhere. He knew that it would be an additional 15 year here.
I can sit here right now and say that I’m not lucky, I am specifically and intentionally right in the middle of God’s purpose: To be Darrell Green, married to Jewell Green, living in this community, playing for this team, raising our kids, and to work to try to change the world, really. I called it Mission America; Washington DC has been our launching pad, our incubator, to do what God created me to do. That’s to reach out to young boys and girls and their families in the area, providing nurturing, provision, education, and most importantly, moral development. To impart (the importance of moral behavior) to young boys and girls, who want to be football players, who want to be like Mike, who want to be Cal Ripken—there’s nothing wrong with that, my son wants to be an athlete.
Once you’ve reached a level of success, we’ve seen it all over the nation, where people haven’t been able to manage well. I can just say with great humility and thanks that this man has had a job being a husband and a dad and an elder in my church, a friend to my community, a founder of a foundation, a businessman, and I’ve managed well.
What’s so great about it is, as I did my victory lap, it brings and end to what I was known for in terms of covering wide receivers and getting run over by running backs most of the time. But it launches, it’s the beginning, it’s the kickoff, to a new life, one of higher heights, in terms of what is good and right and Godly.
This will not sink in, this day, not playing again, for some time. But I do know this; I have a responsibility, a purpose, and a destiny to fulfill. Just as I didn’t know that I’d be able to play here for 15 years, I don’t have to know everything (about the future). In fact, if I knew everything, it would be dangerous.
I want to say this since if not all of you are here, most of you are here. This media in this community, and I don’t know any other community to compare it to, as far as I’m concerned, you guys are the best, the best in the world. You’re certainly the best I know. I’m the best 42-year-old cornerback I know, so that’s true. But I want to say to you guys, you have been the greatest. I don’t think it could be any better. You guys have treated me with great respect. I consider many of you personal friends.
This organization (the Redskins) has been around a long time and has a great history. I am not the end of its history. Dan Snyder and to John Cooke, who hopefully is watching this, the son of the late, great Jack Kent Cooke. Bobby Beathard called me just the other day, Joe Gibbs was here earlier this year to participate in some of my fundraising, Charlie Casserley was here last week; I consider them great friends. Bobby Mitchell, the first African-American to play in this business in this city, has been more than a mentor to me, more than a friend. (So are) Joe (Gibbs), Petitbon, all of the guys from the past. In this new era, Dan Snyder and I became great friends from the beginning. He afforded me the opportunity to finish this (career in DC). This team will always be very dear to me and in my heart. I don’t have any anticipation of being a part of the team officially on any level, but I will always be a part of this team wherever I go.
I want to thank this community because the most important thing you gave me was my wife. Many of you know, I met my wife at Tysons Corner and we’ve been married for 18 years since. I’m your boy, right here in Washington, DC.
Lastly, many people won’t write this, they may cut it off. It’s been no secret that I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s who, above everyone else, I give my thanks, praise and glory to. Write it or cut it off, it’s still true. I’m so grateful that he saved this little boy a long time ago and taught me how to live. In 42 year, I never drank a beer, smoked a cigarette, or did drugs. I didn’t cheat on my wife, I didn’t cheat the Redskins, I didn’t cheat the opponent, I didn’t disrespect the opponents, I didn’t disrespect the refs, the coaches. You know what? It isn’t just because I’m a good guy. It’s because there’s a God that lives inside of me and his name is Jesus. He taught me how to live. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to follow Him, but you can’t deny it. So to God, be the glory.
(Questions are paraphrased)
Unfortunately, most the local writers are my age, so they treat me like I’m their brother; go ahead, (Dave) Elfin.
Q: What was the most emotional part of this whole day for you?
DG: This is the toughest day, even now. I felt it was important to contain my emotions and that’s the toughest thing to do in the world. (I needed) to articulate things at certain times, to play the game, try not to get hurt out there and get caught up in it. When I leave here, I don’t have to control my emotions; believe me, I probably won’t be able to.
This morning in the Washington Post, you probably saw one of the people who honored me with 100 words, person named Deborah Green, that’s my baby sister. In the hotel this morning as I read this, it was over. It was 1983, Christmas Eve, I was talking to her and I couldn’t talk any more. It was my first time away from home, she’s the baby in the family. She’s the one that got me out of the house and when I left the house I met my wife.
I thought it was important to control my emotions because this is a moment, more than a Kodak moment, sort of an epiphany, a time when it’s the space ship taking off. You haven’t seen the last of me. You have seen the last of me getting run over by a running back or trying to knock a ball down, but you haven’t seen the last of me. Locally and, indeed, across this nation, I plan to have an impact. I’m grateful that football has given me a launching pad, but I’ve got work to do.
Q: Darrell, do you have anything to say to the millions of fans who have seen you play?
DG: Did any of you read my message to the fans? That last part, talking about making sure that our children are nurtured, are raised in the right and proper environment, educated with excellence, and most importantly making sure that all our young boys and girls, all out personal posterity, will be raised knowing what’s right and wrong and that they choose right. All of us in this room know what’s right and wrong. We can laugh and smile and get excited about football, but you guys know that our homes, our community, our nation need help.
It doesn’t matter about who brings the message, it could be anyone, but the truth is the truth. So my message to everyone is to do it personally and then help others do it. Let’s make the world a better place.
So often, when you read about (an athlete), thank God you don’t have to say that about me. Every time you write about a player who’s gone, you always (bring up that he was arrested), you always bring that back. You know what, wouldn’t it be great—I think your papers would still sell, commercials will still sell—if there was nothing (like that) to write about this player or that player. The reality of it is this: for every one player or athlete who has blown it, probably 10,000 have blown it that we don’t know about. They may be in your family or just down the street, they’re just not on TV. What I want to do is see that changed, see our nation changed. That’s why God left me here all these years, set up this work, and gave me an incredible launching pad.
Did you guys see that out there? I was a spectator too, really, in many ways. That was awesome. I know I’m in the right place. Isn’t it bad to be somewhere and wake up and realize that you’re in the wrong place?
Q: Did this football story end the right way for you, against the Dallas Cowboys, the way it began, with a victory?
DG: Absolutely, and I thank all of those who set the schedule up this way. Could you write it any better? I don’t think so, this was great. I started off against these guys; remember that great (Tony) Dorsett rundown? We lost the game, but I had fun. This was awesome.
Did Emmitt (Smith) get his yards (to reach 1,000 for the season)? No? (laughs) I’m saying that not to degrade Emmitt. I love and respect the guy. We commemorated every game, he was my final commemorating picture, so I don’t say that to degrade him. I say that just to honor our guys, who did a really great job.
Q: How much fun was the punt return?
DG: Awesome, man, awesome. Me and Champ, at the time of that, we said that if Coach Stock doesn’t call it, we’re going to run it anyway. He called it on that one, though. I didn’t do bad. I really enjoyed it, that’s going to have to be my highlight, my biggest football memory of this last game. The little jump over (a Dallas player) and everything. My son was here to see it, it was good for him to see that his dad can still do it.
Q: Did you think you were going to score in it?
DG: Absolutely! I was expecting to, I always do.
Q: Did you jump over a tackler?
DG: Yeah, I had to jump over a guy. My ribs were still intact, but I didn’t score.
Q: On your victory lap, is there anything that anyone said to you that stands out?
DG: They said so many things. I just felt like people were really connecting with Darrell Green the man and not so much Darrell Green the football player and that’s really my goal. If I’m ever going to reach the levels that I think God has called me to reach, Darrell the number 28 must decrease and Darrell the man must increase as it relates to the message to truth, Godliness, honesty, integrity. People talked more along those lines, saying, I’m going to help the kids.
If they don’t ever help what we do specifically. .. .
(tape recorder on podium clicks off)
Do you need me to turn this over? (laughing) The more you can do, baby!
If they never help me—there, you’re good to go—if they never help us specifically, if they’ll just go out and do something for themselves, for their own communities, I would consider that a success.
Q: Before the game it was very emotional. How were you able to turn it around and play the game?
DG: I’d already tried to prepare myself. I told (Fred) Smoot and them when we broke up—actually, I broke up when I broke us (the defensive backs) up. They really handled it with a lot of respect for me. That really got me to the next level. I knew it was going to be tough; I just needed some setting to let out something. It was with those guys who were all huddled up after we warmed up. That made me strong enough to go out and accomplish what I needed to accomplish.
I got up there to reflect on my father, my brothers and sisters, my wife. I said this years ago, I said this when I did a contract (with the Skins). They said, did you get enough money. I said, look, I’m overpaid. I’m rich, not so much in money, but in love, in friendships, in relationships, and in opportunity. Today, I’ve realized just how rich I am. If you play in the same place for as long as I did, you don’t get the big paydays like Reggie White and those guys got. You know, I wouldn’t trade them for a zillion dollars.
When I got out there, I had to pull it together, I had things that I needed to say. By the way, they told me I had only three minutes, so that was tough.
Q: A lot of your family and ex-teammates were here. Did you get to talk to any of them before the game?
DG: I didn’t get to see any of my family; they came in last night and were all together when they came here today. The thing that knocked me out was reading that article by my sister in my hotel. That was tough.
Q: Did you notice that you were crying while you were speaking (before the game)?
DG: I think I was crying as I’m crying now, on the inside, but I cannot let this moment slip away and waste my three minutes crying.
Q: As intense as the rivalry with Dallas is, do you feel any connection, any kinship with Emmitt Smith?
DG: Oh, absolutely. I feel a kinship with every player in this league because I know what each player goes through to do what he does. Not many of you know what it took for me to play for 20 years, you can only imagine: the wear on your family, your body, your emotions. It’s more than just screams and autographs, so I can relate to him on a number of levels, including the idea that he won’t be playing for his team. We talked about that briefly. God spoke to me so, if God didn’t talk to him, I couldn’t put that on him. I said, I really can’t give you any advice about that because I was going on a mandate from God. I did say that whatever you choose to do, if it’s another team, retire or stay, be sure that there is no animosity in your heart, because that will kill you. You’ve got to forgive if you’re upset, move on if you’ve got to move on to another team or to retirement. That’s the only advice I could give him because I couldn’t put the message from God that he spoke to me in my basement on someone else.
And I wouldn’t put it on these guys. I wouldn’t say to Fred Smoot, don’t be afraid to stay here all your career. I can’t do that. I have to walk the lifeline that God gave me to walk and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve never told any other player to do what I’ve done. It’s not always easy. I never got to go and try out for another team, have agents calling, travel to visit the teams. I’ll tell you what, obedience is better than sacrifice.
Q: After you finished your victory lap, was it hard to walk away from the fans for the last time?
DG: You know why this is so easy for me? Because I have a life. I have a purpose and a destiny and I didn’t just yesterday decide I’ve been working this out through my whole career. I was never Darrell Green, the superstar football player. I was a person of destiny and purpose and because I’m not going somewhere to figure it out I’m walking off. I know I’m going to something different. When I left college, that was tough because I knew I was going to something different. I’m going to something even greater now. That makes it a lot easier. What a blessing.
Q: Do you think you leave the Redskins organization in a better place than it was when you came?
DG: As I said in the letter, I talked about the team being in good hands with Dan Snyder and Steve Spurrier. They’re in just as great a shape as anyone else. Dan Snyder has had a number of years to grow and learn. I think that if you or I were in his position, we’d have to grown and learn as well. He’s proven to be a successful businessman, but his business in the past wasn’t played out on the national scene all the time. I have no reason to think that he won’t be successful. Spurrier is in a process, he hasn’t done it on this level but he’s done it on another level. It’s still football and if the patience is there I have no reason to think he won’t be successful. And my teammates, I believe in each one of them.
So I have no reason to think that they won’t be successful. Do they have some issues? Absolutely, but who doesn’t? So, I think they’re in good shape. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win the Super Bowl next year. If he (Snyder) is as sharp as I think he is—any guy who can buy a team for $800 million is pretty sharp, I guess.
Q: Any thoughts about taking that #28 jersey off for the last time?
DG: No, but if you guys want to go over there with me. .. .But I leave space, I leave space to be human. I don’t know that’s going to be tomorrow or the next day, next July. I’m not going to miss any sleep wondering what it’s going to be like. I leave space, I’m not afraid. I was telling the guys the other day, my wife walked me up the stairs when I couldn’t walk and whatever I have to go through ‘till death do us part. And many great friends, they’ve seen me cry before, they’ve seen me hurt before and if they see me again they can hold my hand like they’ve done in the past. That’s my buddy (ex-Redskin) Tim Johnson back there. Old roommate, pastor, friend, and he’s been there. Whatever happens, we’re going to make it. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but it’s going to be something.
Q: What advice do you give the Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot?
DG: I spoke to the team after the game; I told them how much I love and appreciate them and appreciate being part of this organization. I finished by saying that I know you guys want to be great, want to make millions, but don’t forget the lifeline part of it, the human side. I said to them, make sure you live a life that when they don’t remember you any more in terms of your athletic exploits that you have a life that will have an effect beyond your playing days.
It was a short message, but a message I would leave any of them. Do your job and do it with excellence. But more than anything, be a man.
There’s a scripture in the Bible. The great David was on his dying bed and told his son Solomon, I’m about to die—can you imagine that, telling your son I’m getting ready to die tomorrow. Son, be strong, be a man. Solomon said, what do you mean by that? Obey everything that God has said, all of his decrees, his commandments. If you do that, you’ll be successful. I take that to mean that if we do what God says, there will not be a time when we are not a successful people, a successful nation.
Q: 20 years from now, how would you like your playing career to be remembered?
DG: At that time, hopefully it will be overshadowed by the impact I’m having in this community and in this nation. And they’ll say oh, by the way, he used to play football, too.
Thank you. (as the members of the press stand and clap) Is that for me? The media is standing for me?