Earnest Byner and Ricky Ervins were part of what many feel is the greatest team to have ever hoisted the Lombardi Trophy: the 1991 Washington Redskins.
Even though it's been a quarter-century since that Redskins team won Super Bowl XXVI, the memories of capturing Washington's third world championship are still fresh in the minds and bodies of Byner and Ervins, and they've been busy sharing those experiences with our military veterans and their families.
On Feb. 17, Byner and Ervins hosted a post-Super Bowl “Sundae” social at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Center, which promoted the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of veterans. Byner's non-profit organization -- the Healing Dawgs Foundation -- has been a long-time supporter of veterans, children and the homeless.
In addition to enjoying delicious ice cream sundaes, and taking part in post-Super Bowl trivia games, the veterans and their families got to hear special stories from Byner and Ervins on how they had to adapt and overcome various challenges upon their arrival in the NFL.
One of Byner's stories took him back to perhaps the most crushing moment of his career: a play known as "The Fumble," during the 1987 AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos.
"There were a bunch of different things that happened in that particular game, but nothing prepared me for the fumble," Byner told those in attendance. "As difficult as it was to stand up and say, 'That was my fault. I cost everybody.' The game was in my hands."
Byner was looking for a fresh start to his career, so two years later he was traded to the Redskins. That move allowed Byner to catch his breath and reset himself.
"I looked at it like I was a rookie," Byner said.
Although Byner felt like he was back in the year 1984, when the Browns drafted him, Ervins didn't view him in that light when they first met prior to that magical 1991 season.
"I thought he was a coach," Ervins said. "For me, being young, I learned everything from him. This is my mentor."
It took Byner some time to get adjusted to a new team, and a new environment, but once he did, Byner went right up to then-head coach Joe Gibbs and asked him for more playing time.
The phrase, "Be careful what you wish for," is the best way to describe what the end result of that meeting was between Byner and Gibbs.
"That sucker ran me something like 30 times a game for the next five or six games," Byner said.
Byner got the game work that he asked for, plus he got to see how professional football players conduct themselves in a proper manner, toward each other and their coaches.
Byner was quick to bring those experiences full circle, and relate them to the veterans who were at the social.
"The things that you have been through, the wars, the battles, that sacrifice is commendable," he said. "I want to thank you for that."