In Mike Bass's first two NFL seasons, two personally maddening years when the cornerback was on Detroit's taxi squad nearly the whole time, he kept remembering something he had been told by one of the league's all-time premiere motivators, Vince Lombardi.
As a rookie, Bass had been released on the final cut in the Green Bay Packers' training camp. Lombardi, then Green Bay's coach, assured Bass that he had the talent to play in the NFL.
So when Bass became a free agent after his first two seasons in Detroit, and Lombardi signed on as the Redskins' coach in January 1969, he seized the chance to play in Washington, where Lombardi's words still rang true.
Manning the right side, No. 41 never missed a game over the next seven seasons.
He intercepted 30 passes, one of the best marks in Redskins history, with 478 yards in returns and three TDs. He also returned a fumble for a score.
In 2002, he was named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins in honor of the franchise's 70th anniversary.Despite playing for Lombardi only one season, Bass considered him a great inspiration because the Hall of Fame coach had told him not to give up.
"Coach Lombardi had that kind of an effect on you," Bass said. "If he said you could do something, you could do it. That remained in my mind the whole two years I was with the Lions."
Bass was also fortunate to have been coached for six seasons in D.C. by defensive mastermind George Allen, who "reaffirmed by ability to play in the league," as Bass put it.
Under Allen, the Redskins played in Super Bowl VII, where Bass scored on one of the most bizarre plays in Super Bowl history.
With the Redskins trailing 14-0 and time running out, Miami kicker Garo Yepremian scooped up a blocked field goal and, appearing disoriented, batted it upward like a volleyball.
Bass grabbed it and sprinted 49 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Because the Redskins ultimately lost 14-7, Bass said that play isn't his most memorable one. Instead, he singled out a pass he intercepted and returned for a touchdown in a 1974 win over the New York Giants, plus games where he shut down the opponent's top receiver.
Bass, who played his college ball at Michigan, considered himself slower than many receivers he covered. (He ran a 4.5 in the 40.) He overcame that with meticulous game preparation.
He also laid hard hits on opponents, a skill he refined with help from two Redskins teammates who are also on the Redskins' 70 Greatest team: cornerback Pat Fischer and Hall of Fame safety Kenny Houston.
"It was technique, hitting and tackling, and it was all desire," Bass said. "In the beginning that wasn't one of my strong suits. My strong suit was the ability to cover.
"But after a few years and watching film and understanding the leverage aspect of tackling, and listening and speaking with Kenny and Pat, [tackling] become something I prided myself in."
Bass seriously injured his neck making a tackle in a 1975 game against the Giants. He started the last six games that season but retired during training camp the following summer.
"Mike did a great job--he was always prepared," Allen said at the time. "He doesn't make the mental mistakes and he has gotten everything out of himself as a player."
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. He also hosts “Burgundy & Gold Flashback,” which airs on Sundays from 9:30-10 a.m. on Sports Talk 570: Powered by ESPN. His web site is www.redskinshistorian.com and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.