PEIRRE GARCON KEEPING HIS EYE ON THE BALL, BUSINESS AND THE COMMUNITY IN THE DMV
When I think of a combination of a great athlete and a great human being, I can usually count the ones that I have encountered in my life time on one hand. For example; I could name someone who is a great athlete but a lousy human being or I could name someone who is a great human being but not a great athlete. My choice would always be the great human being every time.
I have been fortunate during my career as a youth advocate (50 years) and a pioneering sports talk show radio personality (45 years) to meet several great athletes/great human beings. Heading the list is Muhammad Ali (The Greatest), Red Auerbach (NBA), Dave Bing (NBA), Lenny Moore (NFL), Bert R. Sugar (Boxing), Lee Jones (NBA), Roy Jefferson (NFL) and Harold McLinton (NFL), finding pro athletes like them today are far, few and in-between. And that is a sad commentary when you think about the hundreds of men and women I have interviewed on Inside Sports and worked with as a youth advocate (Kids In Trouble). Its possible, I set my standards too high–honesty and integrity were the only requirements.
The Great Ones: Washington Pro Football players, LB Harold McLinton (Santa) Judge Luke C. Moore, LB Dave Robinson (2013 NFL Hall of Fame inductee) and WR Roy Jefferson host KIT toy party. Sam Jones (NBA), Lenny Moore (NFL) and Roy Jefferson (NFL) participate in KIT clothing drive for needy children at Union Station. Ali and wife Veronica attend KIT Awards Dinner. The great Red Auerbach and wife Dottie (NBA) guest host on Inside Sports. Bert Sugar (Boxing) receives KIT Life Time Achievement Award and Dave Bing (NBA) pays tribute to KIT Saturday Program All-Stars.
I had the opportunity to hear an interview on Sirius XM Radio (channel 126) on the Maggie Linton Show recently, her guest was NFL Washington Pro football player, wide receiver Peirre Garcon. I have not been very impressed with today’s pro athletes and their give back commitment to their family, friends and community. My problem, is how can you forget those who knew you when you had absolutely nothing? Peirre was a breath of fresh air. He has not forgotten who he is and where he came from. He is the proud son of immigrant parents who hail from the island of Haiti. He has three older sisters making him the youngest and the only one born in the United States.
His father died when he was 4 years old leaving his mother to raise him and his 3 sisters alone. My background is similar to Peirre’s, my mother had to raise 4 boys alone with an assist from Grandma Bell. I remember my father as a Deadbeat Dad from birth, he was never there for us. Peirre’s mom was their Rock as our mom was our Rock! When I speak to young people I remind them that my heroes were not black athletes, my heroes could not shoot a jump shot, hit a baseball out of the stadium, or kick a 60 yard field goal, my heroes were black women. A similarity that Peirre shares.
Peirre Garcon was an outstanding wide receiver and track star (100 and 200 meters) in high school and college and that is where our similarities end. Many have claim that I was a great athlete, but I know a great athlete when I see one and I am not one of them. My claim to fame was not being a great athlete, my claim to fame was I wanted the ball in my hands when the game was on the line. I played football, basketball and baseball in high school and my “Gimme the ball” attitude kept me in the doghouse with my teammates and some coaches, I was considered cocky and selfish.
I thought every ball that was thrown in the air was my ball and no-one could check me one on one! My baseball coach Dr. Leo Hill kicked me to the curve for stealing home to lose a ball game with our best hitter at the plate and final at bat. Dr. William Roundtree the basketball coach made me turn in my uniform my senior year when I decided to switch from top defender to top scorer. The football coach Dave Brown locked me on the bus for the second half of a game against next door neighbor and rival Phelps Vocational High School. The reason, I jumped off-side and caught a touch pass for a 6-0 half-time lead but the play was called back. I blamed my Quarterback Don Wills for not calling the signals loud enough for me to hear. Coach Brown told me to stay on the bus and see if I could hear the signals from there. Wills returned a punt for 63 yards to win the win the game 6-0. I had to apologize to my teammates and coaches to stay on the team. Smart decision–I was on my last athletic legs.
There was another similarity, I notice during the interview with Maggie how comfortable Peirre was sitting behind a microphone. His major in college was communications and while on campus he hosted his own radio talk show. The way he described his talk show format, he had no cut-card, nothing was off-limits or out-of-bounds. Sounds like the original Inside Sports talk show format that is now copied around the country.
The “I Care” televised promos we see during the NBA Finals, Super Bowls and World Series are more about the billionaire owners then about the players giving back to their communities. The first pro athletes to ‘Care’ and give back without calling a press conference were DC natives and hall of fame players, Dave Bing (NBA) and Willie Wood (NFL). In 1967 Dave was a rookie participating in the NBA All-Star Game in Baltimore when there was a drive-by shooting at a DC Public School. A student was shot in front of Spingarn after a basketball game against cross town rival McKinley Tech. I was working with the DC Recreation Department’s Roving Leader Program( Youth Gang Task Force) at the time of the shooting. I was a Spingar alumnus so I was assigned to the school in the role of peace-maker. The young man shot was not seriously injured but talks of revenge persisted. The question was, where and who could I turn to for help in bringing peace to this volatile situation?
The NBA All-Star Game was being played in Baltimore that same weekend of the shooting and a Spingarn alumnus was making his rookie debut, Dave Bing. I had known Dave since he was a youngster playing basketball on the NE playgrounds in our community. I had become not only a friend but a mentor. My gut instincts told me to ride over to Baltimore and I did. On Saturday morning I was waiting outside of the arena when Dave arrived with teammate Bob Lanier. To say he was surprised to see me would be an understatement. He could not believe his eyes, he said, “Harold Bell is that really you?” While we shared a handshake and a hug, his Detroit teammate Bob Lanier introduced himself and disappeared into the arena leaving me and Dave to ourselves.
I explained the surprise visit and why I needed him to come to Spingarn and speak to the student body. He was more than willing and on Monday morning he walked into the auditorium and the students gave him a standing ovation. They had just seen him on national television playing in the NBA All-Star Game. His words of wisdom brought an end to the talks of revenge and more violence. Willie Wood was one of DC’s finest all-around athletes and played 12 years with the great Vince Lombardi. Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to the first Super Bowl ever played. Vince called Willie his coach on the field. During the off-season he came home to work as a teacher in the DC Public Schools or with the DC Recreation Department’s Roving Leader Program. In the 6os the NFL was not paying the players these enormous salaries that today’s players are making, so Willie had to find a second job to make ends meet. During the 1968 riots Willie walked the streets as my co-worker along with U. S. Marshall in Charge, Luke C. Moore. Luke was the first black in modern day history to head the U. S. Marshall Service (he was appointed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson). The 3 of us walked arm-in-arm down the U Street corridor aka Black Broadway. This was the hardest hit area in the Nation’s Capitol. In the 70s, 80s and 90s Willie and Luke were members of the Board of Directors of Kids In Trouble. If Willie Wood was playing today, the New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis would not be the only 16 million dollar defensive back playing in the NFL.
The great Willie Wood says thanks to the equally great Washington Times sports columnist the late Dick Heller. Dick helped lead the fight for Willie’s induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989.
L-R Maggie Linton (Sirius XM Radio), HBell, Peirre Garcon, Gary Johnson (Black Men in America.com) CEO Fouad Quirtem (SpinFire)
As the receiving coach for the DC Public High School West All-Stars (1969), I am passing on some accumulated knowledge with receivers Bob Wagman of Wilson and Charlie Stovall of Cardozo.
I have been watching Peirre from a distant since his arrival in DC 3 years ago (2012) via the Indianapolis Colts. He has been called a pro’s pro and one of the hardest workers in pro football. He is not the rah-rah type of player, he leads by example. He had a breakout season in 2013 when he caught a franchise record-breaking 113 receptions for over 1,300 yards. He broke the great Art Monk’s record. The following year he had 50 less receptions and half the yardage gained. I knew he was special when he never made an excuse or pointed his finger at his quarterback, that is why he is called a pro’s pro by his coaches and teammates.
It looks like his silence and work ethic will be rewarded in the 2015 NFL season. His head coach Jay Gruden and position coach Ike Hilliard who played wide receiver at a high level in the NFL, both said, we must find away to get Peirre more involved in the offense in the 2015 season. The fanfare creative by the acquisition of DeSean Jackson from the Philadelphia Eagles, which I consider the biggest heist in the NFL last year could pay big dividends in 2015.
In a story on NFL.Com, Gruden said more than once last season that he wanted to get Garcon more involved in the passing game. But it never really happened, whether it was a result of free agent DeSean Jackson’s addition to the receiving corps, the revolving door at quarterback or the failure of RG III to make timely, decisive reads, is still the $64,000 question?
When the Redskins got back to work this off season, Peirre frequently lined up split out wide to the right of Griffin rather than in his customary spot to the quarterback’s left. According to Hilliard, it represented an attempt to diversify the offense and get players comfortable with other roles.
And both Hilliard and Gruden spoke highly about the work Garcon was putting in. Heading into his eighth NFL season, Peirre, who’ll turn 29 in August, didn’t miss a session of optional workouts or the mandatory mini-camp.
“I’m impressed, especially with Pierre,” Gruden said, asked his impressions of Garcon and Jackson, who exercised his right to skip several of the optional workouts. “Pierre has been here every day, working his tail off, doing a great job.” Hilliard was even more effusive, calling the 6-foot, 216-pound Garcon “a stud” for his effort in practice, the tough yards he gains after catches and his willingness as a blocker.
“Can’t say enough good things about him,” Hilliard said of Garcon, who had 68 receptions for 752 yards last season. “He’s a pro’s pro — a guy you model your game after if you’re a young pro; a guy you pick his brain, if you’re a young guy, when he’s around. You watch him work; you process the game —or try to process the game the way he does. The consummate pro.”
Another similarity, number 88 keeping their eyes on the ball and the Game Called Life
When I think of Peirre’s work ethic I think of my own as a high school, college and semi-pro player, I played the way I practice, I never took a play off. My teammates would often get pissed-off at me because I went hard on every play, I treated practice like it was the game. I became a good blocker out of necessity–self defense. My size made me a target for aggressive linebackers and defensive backs (bump and run). I got tired of getting beat up, when I was not involved in the play called, I would blind side them to let them know, two could play their game. This tactic worked for me because my playing weight was 170 pounds soaking wet compared to Peirre’s 215 pounds. Being a great downfield blocker helps Peirre get into his pass patterns and keeps the defensive backs guessing. Most great wide receivers are also great blockers and actors. The great NFL Hall of Fame player, former Washington Redskin wide receiver Charlie Taylor was a devastating downfield blocker. He use to keep defensive backs and linebacker’s heads on a swivel, they could not afford go to sleep on him.
Peirre Garcon is in a class by himself on the Washington Pro Football team. He is the only active player that has caught 100+ passes and one of 3 players in the NFL who has average 5 receptions a game for an entire regular season. If the Washington Football team is be in a position to make the play-offs in 2015, they will need a balance passing attack. A healthy Peirre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are one of the most dangerous combos in the NFL. The question marks are, can RG III make the proper reads and can running back Alfred Morris be the workhorse to keep the defenses honest.
Time out there is more, Peirre turns 29 in August and he has already prepared himself for life after the NFL. His daring game plan for life after football to invest in pizza restaurants had many scratching their heads–another pizza parlor? Peirre and his business partner Paisano’s CEO Fouad A. Qreitem’s new business venture is called SpinFire its all about pizza in 90 seconds. And the customers can have it their way (any ingredient). Right now there are locations in Ashburn and Rosslyn, Virginia. There are plans to open stores at Tyson’s Corner and Wheaton mall before the end of the year.
Peirre has huddled with teammates and other players in the NFL about franchising locations in college towns, where they could leverage their celebrity to attract customers (there is gold in them hills).
There is one other similarity, I was a “Mommy’s boy.” There was no maybe, I was ‘Mommy’s baby’ of Mattie Bell’s 4 boys. To understand what makes Peirre the humble and strong brother that he is today, you have to look no further then his family, being an only son automatically makes him a ‘Mommy’s boy. ‘ And with 3 sisters, he is loved and protected by his heroes, black women.
Down and out was my favorite pass pattern, but Peirre’s career pattern will be deep and long.