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Throwback Thursday: Ken Jenkins Remembers One Of The Franchise's Most Memorable Nights


For today's Throwback Thursday moment presented by 

SUBWAY®* restaurants, looks back at the game when Joe Theismann was lost to injury and replaced by a productive Jay Schroeder.

During his playing days, it seemed that Joe Theismann never met a promotional opportunity he didn't like, whether it was hosting TV shows, endorsing products, doing motivational speaking or owning a restaurant.


As part of his flair for self-promotion, he also carried himself in a way that made him sound like he was the only person who could ever quarterback the Washington Redskins.

At least that's the way Ken Jenkins, a Redskins kick returner in 1985 and 1986, remembers it.

"We believed it," Jenkins said. "In interviews, he was like, `I know how to run this offense, and I'm the best guy to run this offense.' We bought in, all of us. The entire Washington area. Joe was a great personality and a great guy."

But any sense of comfort backfired on Jenkins, his teammates and the 53,371 fans at RFK Stadium on Nov. 18, 1985, when the Redskins hosted the Giants in a Monday night game. The division rivals were tied at 7 early in the second period, when the game was interrupted by one of the grisliest scenes in sports history.

Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor led a trio of players who converged on Theismann and dropped him for a sack. At the same time, the quarterback's leg bent at an extreme angle and snapped. As he lay sprawled on the field writhing in pain, the stadium went silent.

For Theismann, who had become a fixture in the nation's capital, the injury would end an 11-year NFL career in which he threw for more than 25,000 yards. He's in the Redskins' Ring of Fame at FedExField and has been a preliminary nominee for the Hall of Fame.

"When he went down, all of the oxygen went out of the stadium, including on the sidelines," Jenkins said. "We were like, holy cow, what are we going to do now?"  

At the same time, garrulous Redskins tight end Doc Walker walked up and down the sidelines saying in low tone, "Let's go Bruin, let's go Bruin," Jenkins remembered.

Walker was referring to Redskins backup quarterback Jay Schroeder, who played his college ball for the UCLA Bruins, the same school that Walker attended.

"So Doc is getting Jay cranked up, and we're all listening, and then we start getting cranked up," Jenkins said. "By the time Jay went in, Doc was screaming at the top of his lungs, eyes blood red, saying, `Let's go Bruin, you can do this!' "

Not everyone was convinced. Schroeder, a former catcher and outfielder in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system who had thrown only eight passes in nearly two NFL seasons, hardly took any snaps in practice.

"No one knew what this unknown Jay Schroeder kid could do," Jenkins said.

But the 6-foot-4, 220-pound strong-armed quarterback showed no rust. On his first pass against the NFL's No. 1 defense, he hit receiver Art Monk for a 44-yard completion down the right sideline. The play would typify his poise throughout the evening before an awe-stricken crowd at RFK and millions more watching on TV.

"Oh my goodness, Jenkins said. "The place went nuts. It was electric that night. With that play, we were back in the game within seconds. Credit coach [Joe] Gibbs for calling that first play for basically a rookie coming off the bench who is taking place of a Hall of Fame nominee. He calls a go route to Art down the sideline, and Jay hits him in the throat. That was amazing."

With the crowd solidly behind him, Schroeder hit Monk again early in the third quarter for 50 yards on a touchdown drive that put the Redskins up, 14-7. Late in the game, he led another drive that ended with a 14-yard scoring pass to tight end Clint Didier. It climaxed his unflappable 13 of 20, 221-yard, one touchdown performance in the 23-21 Redskins win.

"It was the most unbelievable football game," Jenkins said. "I didn't sleep for two days. That was the only time we beat the Giants in my two seasons with the Redskins. That's one of the best memories I have."

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