Throughout the history of the “By the Numbers” series, there have been some digits that feature absolutely brutal competition. Numbers in which, no matter which player comes out on top, there will be a great player from Redskins’ history who is necessarily omitted.
#34 is not such a number.
As it turns out, #34 sees stiff competition of a different kind. It just so happens that few players who wore #34 have spent a significant portion of their careers in Washington. Most of them played sparingly at best, and usually over the course of a season or two.
In fact, no player who wore #34 cracks double digits in the “Approximate Value” calculations from Pro Football Reference.
The player who comes closest is Brian Davis.
Unlike most of the other contenders at #34, Brian Davis is a name that will be familiar to die-hard Redskins fans of a certain vintage. Davis, a defensive back, came to Washington in 1987 after a nice career at the University of Nebraska.
Although Davis had been second-team all-conference with the Huskers, he was overshadowed by a couple of his own teammates on what was, as usual, a very strong Nebraska team. In Davis’ final season of 1986, the Huskers finished #5 in the country. Davis was the Redskins’ second-round pick in ‘87.
But ‘87 was a strike year, which was particularly difficult for rookies: Just as the regular-season began, there was suddenly a month-long work stoppage that derailed the acclamation process. Unsurprisingly, Davis made most of his impact as a rookie during the playoffs.
Notably, Davis has the distinction of being the last player ever to tackle Walter Payton, forcing Payton out of bounds on a fourth-down play late in a divisional playoff game. The tackle sealed the Redskins’ 21-17 win over Chicago at Soldier Field.
In the Super Bowl, Davis made even more of a splash, picking off John Elway twice in Washington’s resounding 42-10 victory over Denver.
Davis worked his way into the starting lineup over the next two seasons as a cornerback. He was the Redskins’ primary starter at left corner by 1989. He had his best campaign that year, intercepting four passes and recording 59 tackles.
The Redskins had gone 10-6 in ‘89, but they missed the playoffs for the second straight year, the only time that happened during Joe Gibbs’ entire coaching career. As the roster began to get revamped, Davis was one of the players who wound up playing less of a role. He subsequently moved on to the Seahawks in 1991. After his stint in Seattle, he played for the Chargers and Vikings before retiring.
For the Redskins, Davis played 38 regular-season games, starting 15 of them. He tallied five picks, a fumble recovery, and 98 tackles. However, he’ll likely be best remembered by fans as one of the players who helped deliver a championship in a Super Bowl XXII blowout. That’s more than enough to give him the nod at #34.
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