As the Washington Redskins prepare for the annual Alumni Homecoming game this Sunday, NFL historian Jim Gehman and Redskins.com remember Super Bowl XXII, beginning first with Ricky Sanders.
Ricky Sanders was destined to be in a burgundy-and-gold spotlight.
Following two seasons with Houston in the USFL, the Redskins acquired the receiver in a trade with New England less than a month before the 1986 season got underway.
Then after being shelved for the first five games because of leg injuries, Sanders’ first reception in the NFL was a 71-yarder from Jay Schroeder against the Giants on October 27.
Evidenced by what occurred during the 1987 postseason, he was just getting warmed up.
After helping Washington advance to Super Bowl XXII against Denver, Sanders’ fingerprints would be left all over the league championship game’s all-time record book.
As a team, the Redskins set one mark by scoring 35 points on five touchdowns during the second quarter. Sanders crossed the goal line with the ball for two of those scores.
The first: trailing 10-0, Washington had Doug Williams in at quarterback. And on first down from his own 20-yard line, he lobbed the ball to the right sideline that Sanders, who was on a fly pattern, grabbed and raced 80 yards for a touchdown.
The second: after fellow receiver Gary Clark caught a 27-yard touchdown pass and running back Timmy Smith raced 58 yards for another score, Williams and Sanders teamed up again for a 50-yard touchdown pass play.
Sanders helped secure the Lombardi Trophy with a nine-catch performance for a then-Super Bowl record 193 yards and the two touchdowns.
“It was a natural high that you can’t compare. It was exciting. It was a good day,” said Sanders. “Doug and I had a great combination. We were on the practice team together [in 1986], and so he threw the ball to me almost every day, 10 to 15 times.
"So when he got into the starting position and I got into the starting position, it was just like practice."
Sanders had one more catch that did not appear in the statistics. However, just like the ones he caught in the Super Bowl, it received widespread recognition.
With scores of cameras rolling during a ceremony on the White House lawn, President Ronald Reagan stepped up to the podium on the stage, flanked by Redskins players and coaches, and with a football in his hand asked, ‘Where’s Ricky Sanders?’
“‘Where’s Ricky Sanders?’ Have I done something wrong? I didn’t do it! No, not this time,” chuckled Sanders, who, while dressed a suit and tie, ran a crossing pattern in front of the secret service agents. “He had a good arm! He threw a nice, tight spiral. And, yeah, he had a chance [to make it] in the NFL.”
The excerpts are from a book about the Redskins “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins…” by Jim Gehman. It is a series of first-person anecdotes and remembrances with dozens of Washington’s former players and coaches dating back to Sammy Baugh.