Five days before Super Bowl XXII, the Washington Redskins held a hard-hitting, high-spirited practice at the University of San Diego. Shortly after the start of one drill—any defensive player who forced a running back to fumble was rewarded with a case of soda—Timmy Smith, a painfully shy rookie from Texas Tech, was stripped of the football, twice. Quarterback Doug Williams, sweaty and exhausted, loped to the huddle after the second fumble and gave Smith an earful.
"Listen, you——," Williams bellowed. "I've been trying to get to this——for 11 years, and I'm not going to let you screw it up! If you fumble that——on Sunday, I'll personally kick you in the ass."
Smith laughed. "O.K., Old Man," he said. Then, noticing tears in Williams's eyes, Smith quickly changed his tone. "I'll run hard, Old Man," he said seriously. "I'll make you proud of me."
Williams, on the brink of making history as the first black to start at quarterback in a Super Bowl, was nervous and worried. At the time, he was the only Redskin player who knew that Smith would be making his first NFL start on Super Sunday. During the regular season, Smith had rushed for 126 yards, but in the team's two playoff games he had run for 138.
As it turned out, Williams and Smith were magnificent in leading Washington to a crushing 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos, who had taken a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. When Williams entered the huddle at the beginning of the second quarter, he barked, "Let's get this sucker rolling!" and Washington went on to the biggest quarter in Super Bowl history—356 yards of total offense and five touchdowns on five-possessions for a 35-10 lead at the half. Williams, who completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns, a Super Bowl record at the time, was named the Most Valuable Player. Smith, who didn't fumble, carried 22 times for a Super Bowl-record 204 yards and two touchdowns.
At the final gun, Williams and Smith went their separate ways. The Old Man shuffled off the field at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, thrusting his helmet into the air. After looking into a camera and telling everybody he was "going to Disney World!" in a prearranged commercial endorsement, Williams bowed his head and, under his breath, told all the critics who had ever doubled his quarterbacking ability where-they could go. Meanwhile, Smith danced gleefully in the end zone with teammates Reggie Branch and Vernon Dean. And when he finally reached the locker room, he was overwhelmed by the crush of the media. Smith began sweating profusely, and as the microphones and minicams and notepads pressed forward to record his story, he suddenly developed a splitting headache and a severe case of lockjaw.
Williams and Smith had given two of the greatest performances in Super Bowl history. Who would have thought, in the hysteria of the Redskin locker room on Jan. 31, 1988, that less than three years later, both players would be bitter, angry and out of football?
The gold four-wheel-drive vehicle crawls along Louisiana Highway 64, winding through downtown Zachary (pop. 8,971) on a mid-December afternoon. Doug Williams is driving, and he's retracing the route of the homecoming parade that was held in his honor two weeks after his glorious Super Sunday. More than 40,000 people had lined the two-mile route, with many decked out in Redskin burgundy and gold, waving pennants and pompoms and homemade signs that read CONGRATULATIONS 17! and WE LOVE YOU DOUG! High school marching bands played Hail to the Redskins. Robert and Laura Williams, Doug's parents, and all seven of his brothers and sisters rode in new sedans near the front of the parade, while Doug, his wife, Lisa, and Ashley, his daughter by his deceased first wife, brought up the rear in a shiny convertible.
"There were so many faces I knew," Williams recalls. "It was like seeing somebody in my family. People would step off the curb to shake my hand or get an autograph. It was a great day. Just perfect."
The cheers and adulation came fast and furious after the Super Bowl. There were telegrams from Rev. Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. There were telephone calls from Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson and singer Dionne Warwick. When the Redskins were honored by the District of Columbia on the steps of the Capitol, Senator Edward Kennedy proclaimed that Williams had accomplished more for civil rights in one football game than the Reagan Administration had in eight years.