More than 50 alumni participated in a REAL School Gardens Big Dig! on Saturday at Leckie Education Campus in southeast Washington, D.C.*
One of the hallmarks of the Redskins' Super Bowl XXVI team, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, besides all of its incredible history on the field, was the team's relationship with the community.
That, at least, is what former quarterback Mark Rypien and running back Earnest Byner remember most about that special season, playing for a franchise committed to making a charitable impact.
"Community has always been a mainstay for the Redskins," Byner said.
Redskins alumni and their families took place in the annual Alumni Homecoming Community Service Project where they transformed an outdoor space at Leckie Education Campus into an interactive outdoor classroom and garden.
So, it was no wonder that he and many of his teammates from the 1991-1992 season, making up more than 50 former Redskins players, coaches and football staff, were on hand Saturday morning at Leckie Education Campus in southeast Washington, D.C., participating in a "Big Dig!" garden build, and outdoor education space renovation.
Thanks to the partnership between the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and REAL School Gardens, the large gathering -- including students, parents, teachers and other volunteers -- got to work.
"It's reminiscent of the time we spent together, especially this [Super Bowl] 26 team, where it was before free agency," Rypien said. "We did things off the field just as much as we did on them, and these guys mean a lot to me and to see a lot of them this week to honor that 91-92 team…to share and do something like Real School Gardens, is awesome."
After a brief huddle to go over responsibilities and designations, the former players started to get their hands dirty, shoveling up the hardened earth to plant flowers, shrubs and some trees. Then, some mulching and painting – a small shed and birdhouses – until a ribbon cutting ceremony culminated three hours of work.
The garden will be used for years to come, even ready for those elementary students headed to school on Monday.
"It was amazing," said April Martin, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic region of REAL School Gardens. "You see players that you've watched growing up come together and really show leadership skills to young people that admire them and they get to work side by side with them along with teachers. I think it really shows their commitment to the community. Years later and that they still are a part of our community."
Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green took charge of building the entrance arbor – a wooden doorframe that welcomes garden visitors to a winding path throughout the creation. He and fellow alumni, including Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Fred Dean and Jeff Bostic, measured and handed out duties to make sure everything came out nicely.
"I didn't know what to expect," Green said. "At the end of the day, we were really building something that kids will be around every day. The fence had to be put together right. Not only did it have to have the right look cosmetically, but also the physical. You're hammering and screwing and digging and cementing. It's not only a fun thing, it's going to be where they live and play, do education every day."
"I've been watching how Darrell Green and Art Monk have been getting down on their knees and measuring everything," Dean said. "But just to be out here and be amongst the community, I'm glad the Charitable Foundation brought us out here."
Legendary general manager Bobby Beathard, who was inducted into the Redskins Ring of Fame at Sunday's game, was also on hand, observing students fill in plants and chatting with many of the players he helped draft to the team.
His presence, along with a soundtrack pumping out songs from the players' generations, helped provide the perfect atmosphere for a day of giving back.
"We got it done and I was happy about it. It makes me proud," Green said. "We may have to start a company. Stay tuned."