Ed Rubbert chuckled when I mentioned it.
The rumor was that the creators of the 2000 movie “The Replacements” had based actor Keanu Reeves’ character, quarterback Shane Falco of the fictional Washington Sentinels, on him.
“I’ve never seen the whole movie,” said Rubbert, an assistant football coach at Lower Cape May Regional High School. “But I saw enough to know that it’s not true. Not even close.”
Rubbert is not left-handed and didn’t have an epic collapse in the Rose Bowl. He also never made a living scraping barnacles off boats.
There is one similarity, however.
Both played quarterback for a replacement team in Washington during a players’ strike.
Exactly 30 years ago, Rubbert started all three games for the Redskins during the NFL’s work stoppage. His experience is part of the documentary, “Year of the Scab,” which was shown earlier this week as part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series.
“I watched it the other night and thought it was pretty good,” he said. “They did an accurate job of showing what it was like for us to go through it.”
Rubbert, now 53, doesn’t particularly enjoy reliving it.
He usually only looks in the rearview mirror when he’s driving to his job as a physical education teacher in the Lower Township Elementary School district or on his way to football practice at Lower.
“Playing those games is something I did a long time ago,” he said. “It was a great experience, but I’ve moved on.”
It almost didn’t happen.
One day after signing with the Redskins’ replacement team, he was on a bus back to New City, New York.
The picketing Redskins players didn’t exactly greet the replacement players warmly. One veteran, defensive lineman Darryl Grant, showed up dressed in camouflage and broke one of the bus windows as the players pulled into the practice fields.
“I left because I had been to (training) camp with all of those guys and I felt bad for crossing the line,” he said. “(Redskins) coach (Joe) Gibbs called and asked me to come back. I talked it over with my older brother (Bill), and he reminded me that if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I would regret it for the rest of my life. And he was right.”
Put yourself in Rubbert’s cleats.
Anyone who says they wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to play in the NFL, albeit in a replacement game, is full of baloney.
I know I would have.
Rubbert, then 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, went back and played very well.
The former standout at the University of Louisville went a combined 26 for 49 for 532 yards with four touchdowns against just one interception. His 88-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anthony Allen against the St. Louis Cardinals was the longest pass completion in the NFL that season.
It came on a play that was essentially drawn up in the dirt, like when you and your friends would get together in the vacant lot — go to the second telephone pole and cut left — after school.
The Redskins went on to win the Super Bowl that season in large part because of what Rubbert and the other replacement players accomplished. They won all three games, beating NFC East rivals St. Louis, New York Giants and Dallas, respectively. When the strike ended, the Redskins led the division.
The Redskins rewarded all the replacement players with playoff shares that amounted to around $27,000. However, those that were not on the active roster for the playoffs, including Rubbert, did not receive Super Bowl rings.
“Some guys were upset by that, but I wasn’t disappointed at all,” he said. “I had a great time, I got a nice chunk of change, and it afforded me more opportunities to play in the league.”
Rubbert had tryouts with San Diego and Miami over the next two seasons, but they didn’t pan out. After a stint in the Arena Football League, he returned to Louisville to finish his degree and has been teaching and coaching for the last 20 years.
When he lost his teaching job in Rockland County, New York, due to budget cuts, his wife, Elise, suggested they visit Cape May, where she had spent summers as a child.
“I had never been here before we moved here,” he said. “It’s a very nice area. We’re both beach bums, so it worked out well.”
Rubbert spends his weekdays teaching, his afternoons coaching and his weekends relaxing on the beach.
It sure beats scraping barnacles off boats.
(David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.)