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Riggo & “Brother” Walker
Greetings from The Booth!
Well, we are just days away from “The Big Game” as we head toward Super Bowl 57, or XLVII if you insist on using the Roman numerals (I’ll use those when the Coliseum in Rome is rebuilt and they bring back the chariot races). Countless words have been written about this year’s matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, and by kickoff Sunday, you will know everything about every player, down to the shoe size. So, instead of more expert analysis (you can get that in our latest Sports Dogs Podcast on this very website), I choose to look back at one of my favorite Super Bowls, Super Bowl 17.
That game holds a special place in my memory for several reasons. The Chinese say that revenge is a meal best served cold, and it took 10 years for the Washington Redskins to avenge their Super Bowl loss in the 1972 season to the undefeated Miami Dolphins. The 14-7 score that year belied the domination of the ‘Fins on that January day in Los Angeles. The ‘Skins only score came late in the 4th quarter on a fluke Mike Bass touchdown on a botched Miami field goal attempt. That Super Bowl appearance was the high-water mark for the “Over The Hill Gang.” George Allen’s geriatric bunch would never return to the Big Game.
Enter Joe Gibbs, who, in his second year as head coach of the Burgundy & Gold, navigated his team through a work stoppage, through a revamped playoff format, and back to the Super Bowl against…the Miami Dolphins. The ‘Skins found a winning formula that season with a stout defense, quick strike passes from quarterback Joe Theismann to a receiving corps known as The Smurfs, an MVP kicker in Mark Moseley, and The Diesel, John Riggins, who ran behind the legendary O-line, The Hogs.
Riggo was the engine that made the Redskins go, especially in the post-season, rushing for 610 yards in 4 playoff games that season. But it is one run that stands out. Facing a crucial 4th and 1 at the Miami 43 and trailing 17-13 (and everyone in the Rose Bowl knowing who was going to get the football), The ‘Skins called on Riggins, who shook off an initial tackle and raced into the end zone to complete the most iconic run in Washington football history. The Redskins would add another score for the 27-17 final, and the Lombardi Trophy was headed to the Nation’s Capital!
I had the best of both worlds that day. Not only did my beloved ‘Skins win the Super Bowl, but Martinsburg’s own Fulton Walker returned a Miami kickoff for a touchdown. I had the pleasure of playing high school baseball with Walker for the MHS Bulldogs, and I’m pretty sure that even the many Redskins fans in the Eastern Panhandle, including me, swelled with pride as “Brother” Walker, as he was known, outraced the Washington coverage and put his team ahead 17-10.
Walker died in 2016, but I believe there is still a great picture of his Super Bowl kickoff return that hangs in a ticket building at the MHS football stadium. The full-size picture shows Fulton racing toward the end zone with all 11 Redskins trying to chase him down. Riggo’s touchdown that day is probably most remembered, but those of us in Martinsburg will never forget the afternoon that one of our own made Super Bowl history. Rest in Peace, Brother Walker!
Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the Big Game!