Indeed, his punt returning had caught the eyes of Redskin scouts. "We knew he had great hands," says Charley Taylor, who scouted Monk for the Skins. And hands, says Beathard, were what they needed. Monk was watching the draft on television when commissioner Pete Rozelle announced Washington's top pick. "I was shocked," says Monk, who was completing work toward a degree in speech and communications. "I just couldn't believe it, especially the first round. I never grew up saying I wanted to be a professional football player. I thought it was too farfetched. I just loved the game and figured that college was about as far as I was going to go." Monk's expressions of disbelief that he was drafted so high were not false modesty. After four years of coaching him, Maloney came to know that it was neither bravura nor self-assurance that powered Monk from day to day.
"I always viewed him as being insecure about his ability," Maloney says. "That's why he always listened to everything you said. He fears failure. That's why he works out like a madman. He fears the end of his career. He fears slowing down. That's a wonderful thing to have, that fear."
It pushed him from college to the pros, chased him into the training room, haunted him in the endless, lonely off-seasons on the running tracks. "Once I got to the pros, I thought, Maybe I can compete," Monk says. "I got some confidence. But it seemed like, no matter how well I did, I always felt like it wasn't good enough. I don't know where this came from, but I always felt I've got to do better—it's good, but I've got to do better! I worked hard because I never felt I had the talent."
It is no wonder, given the underlying currents at work, that Terry Metcalf should leave such a lasting imprint on his life. Gibbs had coached Metcalf during the player's glory days as a running back with the St. Louis Cardinals, and in 1981, Gibbs's first year in Washington, he brought the fading Metcalf, a renowned workaholic and student of the game, to the Redskins as a kind of player-coach and exemplar-in-residence. Metcalf bought a home across the street from Monk, in Arlington, Va., and the two men became inseparable.
"Terry had a motor in him," Monk says. "We'd go to a high school track at nine o'clock and run. We did a lot of agility work, running up and down stairs. Midafternoon we'd go and play eight games of racquetball. Then we'd play basketball at night. Or we'd go jogging. Or riding our bikes. One time we rode from Arlington to Redskin Park, 20 miles one way, and back."
Monk had never submitted himself to such torture. "If I said to Terry, 'I don't feel like working today,' he'd drag me out of the house," Monk says. "He reinforced what I had learned from my parents. I actually think I got a little quicker working with Terry. And I just felt better about myself, my abilities."
Metcalf retired after a season with the Skins, and over the years Monk added a stitch here and a wrinkle there to the regimen. The largest wrinkle of all was a 45-degree, 15-yard hill at George Mason University, not far from Monk's home, that he has been running for years. Redskin wideout Gary Clark trained with Monk in the summer of 1987 and recalls the horrors of trying to keep up with him. "It was 25 times uphill, straight leg-pumps," says Clark. "Then 25 times backward. Then 25 times in a stutter step. Then six 220s on the track and six 110s. I finally told him, 'You're crazy! I'll do my own program.' He's totally focused—God, family, football—and he knows what he has to do in each facet of his life. If I had a kid, I'd say, 'Art, you raise him for 10 years and then send him back to me.' "
Not surprisingly, Monk's game is just as grounded as his life. He has been no Jerry Rice or Lynn Swann out there, soaring after footballs in midair balletic spins. Rather, the abiding image of him is as the man in motion at the snap. Five yards across the line he slants toward the sideline or breaks for the middle. "He is not your typical receiver, who goes out there and runs patterns in air and space and catches balls," says Gibbs. "Art's the strongest outside receiver I have ever coached, and he has caught a lot of balls inside and taken the hit."
Monk has taken a fearful beating over the years, but he has never been one to take the easy, tiptoeing way out of perilous straits. Last Nov. 10, late in a game the Skins were winning easily against the Atlanta Falcons, Monk caught a pass for a first down. "He got pinned by a defender on the sideline," says Wayne Sevier, the Washington special teams coach. "There was nowhere to go. A lot of guys would have stepped out. Instead, he drilled the guy in the face and got an extra couple yards."
Unhappy with the members of his kickoff team for letting up late in the same game—they had blown three coverages in a row—Sevier a few days later showed them a film clip of that Monk play. "I told them," he says, " 'Here's a guy who's going to the Hall of Fame, and watch what he does here.' Before he's through, he's going to do something that has never been done in football before. He's going to catch a thousand balls."