Comebacks
by
Mar 04, 2013 -- 11:06am

What Adrian Peterson did last season goes down as one of the greatest injury comeback stories of all time.  It's even a quasi-local story when you consider that he shreded his knee on the FedEx Field turf Christmas eve 2011.  To come up only nine yards short of 2,000 yards rushing in 2012 was darn near miraculous.  Skeptics wonder if it was performance-enhancing aided.  

     Saturday we gained a new entrant on to the list of comeback stories.  After sitting out nearly two months with a foot injury, Duke forward Ryan Kelly turned in one of the great performances in ACC history.  Never mind it was comeback performance, this was simply a great performance!  Kelly scored a career-high 36 points, knocking down 10 of 14 shots - including 7 of 9 three-pointers - as Duke beat Miami 79-76.  Said Coach Mike Krzyzewski, "One for the ages.  Probably as good a performance as any player has had - a Duke player has had - in Cameron."
     So it has us once again thinking local list.  What are the greatest comeback performances in D.C. sports history?  Subject for debate (of course), here are my top five local comeback performances.  Not all of them involve an injury or a single game, but each involves an impressive return to the top:
 
5.  Maryland basketball 1990 - 2002 - When Gary Williams agreed to leave a strong program he'd built at Ohio State, he knew he was in for a rebuilding job.  Maryland had gone 9-20 in Bob Wade's last season (1988-89), winning only one ACC game.  What he didn't know was Maryland would be hit by probation.  No television for two years and no postseason play for a year.  Some might have left.  Williams stayed and rebuilt the program with what he had.  After only two losing seasons - 14-15, '91-92 and 12-16, '92-93, Maryland returned to the NCAA Tournament and made it to the "Sweet 16" in 1994.  Though Maryland made it back every year for the next six, it didn't satisfy some who figured the Terps should be in the Final Four, even though they had never made it before.  Finally in 2001, Maryland made it with a team made up of mostly sophomores and juniors.  A year later, Maryland won it all.  
 
4.  Pervis Ellison 1991-92 - After completing a brilliant four-year career at Louisville, where he was named MVP of the Final Four as a freshman, "Never Nervous" Pervis became the first pick of the NBA draft by the Sacremento Kings in 1989.  He spent most of his rookie year sitting, missing 48 of 82 games.  The Kings decided to cut their losses right away, sending Ellison to the Bullets in a three-team deal with Utah.  Ellison was the biggest name in the deal, with the Bullets unloading aging guard Jeff Malone to the Jazz.  Ellison spent the 1990-91 season as a backup, averaging just over 10 points a game.  But in his second year, Ellison averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and nearly three blocked shots a game.  He was named most improved player in the league.  Unfortunately it didn't last.  The injuries returned the following two seasons and after averaging only 7.3 points a game during the '93-94 season, Ellison was released.  He finished his career as a role player with the Celtics and Sonics, never living up to the promise he showed as a college freshman.

3.  Bernard King 1987-1991 - When King went down with a torn ACL late in the 1984-85 season, he was on his way to a Hall of Fame career.  In his late 20's with the Knicks, King was averaging 32 points a game when he was hurt.  At that time, a torn ACL was usually a career ender.  But King fought through a painful rehab, sitting out the entire '85-86 season.  He returned to play six games at the end of the '86-87 season, hoping to get a new contract.  But the Knicks decided the knee wasn't worth the gamble and King signed as a free agent with the Bullets.  Averaging 17 points a game, he helped get the Bullets in to the playoffs in what turned out to be the last time in 10 years.  Though the Bullets team success faded, King got better and at the age of 34, made it back to the All Star game, averaging 28 points a game.

2.  Dan Snyder 1998 - 1999 - The Redskins went up for sale after the death of Jack Kent Cooke in 1997.  While his son John hoped to retain the team, it soon became clear that with the way his father had set up the team in a charitable trust, it was going to be nearly impossible to come up with the necessary funds.  Early in the process, Snyder's name surfaced as part of a group headed by New York real estate magnate Howard Milstein.  Only 34-years-old at the time, Snyder was identified as simply an investor.  The group, in fact, was known as the "Milstein group."  The group made it's pitch to the NFL owners, who made it clear they wanted no part of Howard Milstein and his brother Edward.  Several years earlier the Milsteins had been rejected for ownership of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.  However, Snyder was told if he could come up with the bucks, he would likely be approved.  Partnering with Fred Drasner, Snyder was approved as only the third majority owner in the history of the franchise.

1.  Doug Williams 1988 - In many ways, Williams entire career is a comeback story, but what he did in Super Bowl XXII ranks as one of the great in-game comeback stories of all time.  Coming out of Grambling in 1978, Williams was taken in the first round of the draft by Tampa Bay after an assistant coach by the name of Joe Gibbs convinced head coach John McKay to take him.  Despite leading the Bucs to the NFC championship game in his second year and establishing himself as one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league, Williams was the lowest-paid starter.  At the end of his five-year rookie contract, Williams asked that his salary be raised from $120,000 to $600,000.  When the Bucs refused, Williams sat out the entire 1983 season.  He returned to football as quarterback of the USFL Outlaws, who played the 1984 season in Oklahoma and the following one in Arizona.  After the league folded, the one offer he had to return to the NFL was with Gibbs and the Redskins.  But it would be as a backup.  Jay Schroeder was the starter.  Schroeder led the Skins to the NFC championship game, where they lost to the Giants.  Like Joe Theismann before him, it looked like Schroeder would be the starting quarterback for many years.  It didn't turn out that way.  When Schroeder struggled in 1987, Williams became to relieve him in certain games.  By late November, we had a good old fashioned quarterback controversy with Williams getting his first start in game 10.  But a back injury landed him back on the sidelines and Schroeder started the next five games.  Finally in the last regular season game, Gibbs had enough and benched Schroeder for good.  Williams quarterbacked a road victory over Chicago and a home win over Minnesota to send the Redskins to the Super Bowl.  The night before, Williams went to see a dentist for an emergency root canal.  The following day - more pain.  Down 10-0 against John Elway and the Broncos, Williams went down with a hyperextended knee.  Schroeder came in and was sacked twice as the first quarter came to an end.  Then history.  Williams filled the air with touchdown passes - four of them - including one for 50 yards and another for 80 yards.  Timmy Smith mixed in a 58-yard scoring run and the Redskins had the game put away by halftime, leading 35-10.  Williams was named the game's MVP and to this day, remains, the only African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

1A.  Robert Griffin III 2013?   



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