Gold Jacket Spotlight: Speed sent Darrell Green from Division II to Super Bowls

Gold Jacket Spotlight Published on : 5/8/2023
Speed kills. 

Nobody knows that better than DARRELL GREEN.
For many athletes, speed comes and goes during their careers. But for Darrell the “Ageless Wonder,” his speed never dwindled, not even slightly. 

From his time as a two-sport athlete at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M – Kingsville), Darrell was known as one of the fastest individuals alive. While he was a standout defensive back on the Javelinas’ football team, it was his three-year tenure on the track team that brought him national acclaim. 

His final year in college saw Darrell dominate in both sports, earning first-team All-America honor on the gridiron and the Most Valuable Track Performer at the Lone Star Conference Championship. 

The Washington Redskins took a chance on the small-school product, whom many believed lacked the stature to be a starting NFL cornerback. The organization planned to use Darrell primarily as a returner on special teams, until he was “big enough.”

In his first professional game, Darrell’s speed was on full display. 

One of the most notable displays of speed in all of sports, Darrell chased down Hall of Fame running back TONY DORSETT. In the 1983 “Monday night Football” game, the Dallas Cowboys running back took a handoff from his own 15-yard line and weaved his way though the offensive line. As he ran past the entire Washington defense, he saw only turf ahead of him for what he thought would be an 85-yard touchdown. That was until Darrell came storming in from the opposite side of the field, blazing past two of his teammates, stopping Dorsett, who was in disbelief, from the touchdown.

“Quite frankly, until I saw him run, I thought he was going to be too small,” said former Washington defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon. 

That display of speed by Darrell led him to start all 16 games his rookie season. He intercepted two passes and recorded 109 total tackles. Washington would appear in its second Super Bowl in as many seasons, this time falling to the Los Angeles Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. 

Darrell became known for his chase-down tackles of the game’s most elusive and fastest offensive threats throughout his 20-year career. Routinely appearing on television screens like he was shot out of a cannon, he frequently tackled opponents who thought they were in the clear.

In the 1986 NFC Wild Card Game, another Hall of Fame running back, ERIC DICKERSON, found a hole at his own 20-yard line, seeing 80 yards of open field in front of him. He was in a full sprint as he passed his own 30, while Green was turning off a block from a wide receiver at the same point. Green's astounding burst of speed allowed him to catch Dickerson at the Washington 15-yard line.

“I knew he was coming,” Dickerson said. “I was saying, ‘I know he's back there somewhere,’ and he caught me.”

Washington entered the 1987 playoffs as the No. 3 seed and was slated to play the No. 2 Chicago Bears. With his team down 14-0, Darrell was lined up to return a punt late in the second quarter. One of the most notable plays in franchise history followed, as he returned the punt 52 yards for a touchdown, giving the club a much-needed spark. This was his only career return for a touchdown on special teams. Washington would go on to win the game, 21-17, advancing to the NFC Championship. 

Green’s solid play that postseason helped Washington advance to Super Bowl XXII. After losing in his first championship game appearance in 1983, Green recorded one solo tackle and one assist in the 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos.  

“He is a freak of nature,” former Washington linebacker Ken Harvey said.

The 1991 season saw Darrell’s success continue into the postseason, with Washington finishing the regular season 14-2 and No. 1 in the NFC. During the regular season, Darrell tied his career high of five interceptions. In the NFC Championship Game, he recorded a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown during Washington’s 41-10 win over the Detroit Lions.

A four-time Pro Bowler, Darrell advanced to his third Super Bowl with Washington, this time against the Buffalo Bills. In his final championship game appearance, Darrell intercepted a pass from Hall of Fame quarterback JIM KELLY in the second quarter, leading to a score that put Washington up 17-0. The team never looked back, claiming its second Super Bowl in five seasons and third over 10 seasons. 

The former Division II track star had proved the skeptics wrong and won two Super Bowls, all as the fastest man in the NFL.