Ashburn, Va. — Charley Casserly strode to the podium at Redskins Park and began describing what could be considered an NFL front office executive’s nightmare.
Back in 1987, the NFL Players Union voted to go on strike after the second week of the season. The third week of that season was cancelled, and Casserly along with his then-boss Bobby Beathard, the Redskins General Manager, went to work bringing in a brand new roster of replacement players to allow Joe Gibbs and his coaching staff as much time as possible to prepare them for their week 4 matchup with St. Louis.
"Basically, we out hustled them" Casserly said of the group that he and Beathard were able to put together. That group went on to win all three games in which they played, and assembled again at Redskins Park on Tuesday to receive the Super Bowl rings from that season they have been waiting for for over three decades.
"It was great sharing stories with this group" Casserly said. "You can see the excitement. It's a proud moment for them and it's a proud moment for the Redskins".
It was a day some of them thought might never happen.
"My friends always said 'Let me see your Super Bowl ring'" said Roanoke native Mike Wooten, who played center on that team. "It was always discouraging that we didn't have it to show them. To be able to experience this 30 years later is a blessing."
Wooten, who played collegiately at VMI, is believed to be the only Keydet in school history to have a Super Bowl ring.
The contributions of the replacement players were previously highlighted in the documentary Year of the Scab,produced by Ten100 in association with Leftfield Pictures (an ITV America company). The film, directed by John Dorsey, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in the spring of 2017 and aired as part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series in September.
"I really honestly didn't think it was going to happen" said John Cowne, who was a long snapper from Virginia Tech back in 1987. "After the 30 for 30 special came out, I had a bunch of people tell me I was going to get one, but I wasn't sure until it actually happened."
"These guys worked so hard together" added Eric Wilson, a Charlottesville native who played linebacker on that team. "We felt what we did was real important to their (Redskins) success."
"The whole process has been tremendous".
To properly honor the players for their role in the team’s 1987 championship season, the Redskins worked closely with the documentary’s director, Dorsey, and a number of key partners. Baron Rings, represented by President Peter Kanis, furnished the rings, while diamonds were provided by Uptown Diamond, represented by Principal Rick Antona.
“The 3-0 record of the Redskins replacement players was part of the remarkable success of the 1987 Washington Redskins,” Owner Dan Snyder said in a statement in March announcing the ceremony. “Their contributions are part of Redskins history and represent an integral reason why a Lombardi Trophy from the 1987 campaign resides in our facility today. Thanks in part to the generosity of our partners on this project, we are happy to honor these players for their role in that World Championship.”
The Virginia General Assembly also officially commended the replacement members of the 1987 team in March with House Joint Resolution No. 151, expressing “the General Assembly’s admiration for their determination, hard work, and incredible achievements.” Quarterback Tony Robinson and defensive lineman Anthony Sagnella represented the replacement players during the passing of the resolution in Richmond.
The replacement players went 3-0 during their active time, including a 13-7 win over the Cowboys on Monday Night Football that Casserly called one of the greatest upsets in Redskins history. The Cowboys had several starters cross the picket lines including Tony Dorsett, Randy White, and Ed "Too Tall" Jones.
"You want their stars to play and they're gonna play" Casserly recalled Gibbs telling his replacement players just before that game. "You want every other team in the league to watch you tonight. This is why you came back: for this moment"
"I still get choked up when I say it" Casserly said.
The three victories earned by the replacement players helped propel the Redskins to an 11-4 regular season record and an NFC East title. The Redskins would go on to defeat the Denver Broncos, 42-10, in Super Bowl XXII to earn the team’s second Super Bowl title and fourth World Championship.
Brendan Toibin was a Monacan high grad who played at the University of Richmond and was a kicker on that replacement team. Mr. Toibin passed away back in 2013, but Redskins officials will make sure his family receives his ring.