London Fletcher - Middle Linebacker - #59
Ladies and gentlemen of the burgundy and gold faithful, meet our 37 year old Middle Linebacker, London Levi Fletcher-Baker #59. Here you can see this Mecca of a man, hopping on the back of Shawn Springs and gliding into the end zone with a ball thrown by former teammate and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner for a pick six against Arizona in 2007. But Fletcher wasn't always just a football giant (figuratively - he's only 5'10"). He was pretty good at basketball too.
Born May 19, 1975 in Cleveland, Ohio (my home state), LFB attended Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in his hometown, where he not only dominated his high school football team, he lead the Villa Angela-St. Joseph Vikings to two state championship basketball teams.
John Carroll University in Cleveland noted LFB's talents and welcomed him aboard their D3 empire. He played basketball and football there, and as a senior, he recorded 202 tackles, a Blue Streaks record, and was the D3 Linebacker of the Year.
Fletcher's talent flew under the radar during the 1998 NFL Draft, getting picked up by the St. Louis Rams as an UFA on April 23, 1998. 352 tackles were accumulated by LFB, including 13 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 interceptions and a safety in four years in St. Louis. He started just 1 game his first season (but earned Rams Rookie of the Year), and after that only missed one start the next three years. In his sophomore season, LFB experienced not a "sophomore slump," but a Super Bowl Championship.
For five more years, LFB expanded his LB dominance in Buffalo, where he started every single game, recording 725 tackles, an average of 145 tackles a season. During that time, he also sacked helpless quarterbacks 14 1/2 times, tackling some poor fool in their own end zone, forcing 5 more fumbles, taking a fumble to the house, picking off 5 passes, and taking one of those to the house too (both returns in the same year). For those of you keeping score at home, we're up to over 1,000 tackles in just 9 years.
On March 3, 2007, the Redskins made an upgrade at MLB. Lemar Marshall just wasn't cutting it, so they went out and picked up LFB for 5 years, $25 million. Money well spent in my opinion. In September 2007, I got a chance to ask him a question for an ES exclusive chat. In the first question of the chat, I asked him:
How did you feel when you found out you were coming to Washington?
(Laugh) I was ecstatic, man. You know the Washington Redskins is one of the great franchises in the National Football League. It has great tradition. They have a great fan base. When it was official about me signing with the Redskins, I was probably more excited than they were (big laugh).
Alongside Rocky McIntosh and Marcus Washington, the Washington Redskins' solid linebacker corps, LFB helped front an 8th ranked defense in 2007, an impressive step up from 31st just a year earlier. LFB led the team in tackles with 128, 100 of them by himself, bringing his career total to 1,205. He also deflected 10 passes and picked off 3 of them.
2008 was just another year at the office for London, leading a Redskin defense that ranked 4th in the league. "Fletch" accumulated 133 tackles, 96 solo (both team highs), deflected half of a dozen passes and forced a fumble in his second year under the prestigious burgundy helmet. Not even a foot injury that lasted for weeks late in the season would slow him down, as he extended his consecutive starts streak to 135 games.
Statistically, 2009 was Fletcher's best year in Washington. Alongside rookie Brian Orakpo and three year starter Rocky McIntosh, Fletcher finished the season with 142 tackles (95 solo) while again starting all 16 games. He also had one interception and one forced fumble. Though his stats were impressive, the Jim Zorn-lead Redskins slumped to a lowly 4-12, their worst record since Norv Turner's first year in Washington (1994, 3-13).
Fletcher looks to help turn the Redskins around in 2010 under new head coach Mike Shanahan and new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. With the Redskins switching to the 3-4, Fletcher will likely remain the Redskins "Mike" linebacker. It is not unfamiliar territory for LFB, as Buffalo used the 3-4 while Fletcher was there in the mid-2000s.
One of the most controversial aspects of LFB's career has been his lack of Pro Bowl bids. He has made no less than 116 tackles in this decade, and has never missed a game in his career (or a start since 2000). For the 2010 Pro Bowl, Patrick Willis of the 49ers and Jonathan Vilma of the Saints were voted the NFC's starting and reserve inside linebackers, respectively. However, Willis was injured and Vilma had the Super Bowl the next week, So Fletcher was named the starter. LFB had 5 tackles (all solo), second most between both conferences, in a narrow NFC defeat, 41-34.
Impressively, LFB has the second most cosecutive starts in the NFL, trailing only Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber. LFB also leads the league in tackles since 2000. His 15 year career has been solid, consistent, and potentially Hall of Fame worthy. Hail to the Redskins, and hail London Fletcher!
Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees asking LFB for mercy at the 2010 Pro Bowl from the same
fate SB XXXIV MVP Kurt Warner suffered.
Career Stats (As of Week 11 of the 2012 Regular Season)
234 Consecutive (T-1st among active players - R. Barber) and Total Games Played
218 Total Starts
195 Consecutive Starts (2nd among active players - R. Barber)
1,873 Tackles (1st since 2000)
18 Forced Fumbles
12 Fumble Recoveries
3 Defensive Touchdowns
St. Louis Rams - 1998-2001
Buffalo Bills - 2002-2006
Washington Redskins - 2007-Present