Two years ago, a Northern Virginia fireman and a sports marketing consultant from Maryland were collaborating on an Internet radio show called Wylde Style, produced on location at places like Hooters out of a pink RV. This week, those same two guys - Kevin Shafer and Rocky Parrish - landed an emotional, nearly 30-minute interview with Albert Haynesworth that will serve as something of a coda for the lineman's time in Washington.
"Tell you the truth, it's been a little bit surreal," the 40-year old Shafer said Tuesday, after the pair's interview with Haynesworth on 106.7 The Fan had gone national. "The fire chief just walked in and said, 'I just saw your name on SportsCenter.' It's a little bit like, wow, are you kidding?' "
The duo met about five years ago at the restaurant formerly owned by Mike O'Meara, one of the key figures in the old guy-talk WJFK. Shafer wanted to get into radio, and he and Jeff Salisbury, a managing partner of the restaurant, approached Parrish about giving it a try.
"I was like, 'Hell no,' " Parrish, 38, recalled. "I've never done radio before. I've never even thought about doing radio before."
Still, he agreed to sit in for a few demos, with the pair aiming for something that would fit into vintage WJFK. Parrish said their early efforts "sounded horrible," and when he moved to Oregon to do marketing work with Nike, the experiment ended. A couple years later, he returned to Washington, and they agreed to spend about a year seeing if they could make something work.
When Parrish heard of the station's impending move to a sports-talk format in the summer of 2009, he sent an impassioned message to the station's programming director, Chris Kinard, asking for a shot.
"I was looking for people to put on the weekend, looking for some talent to develop," Kinard told me. "And they were one of the first to reach out."
They did a demo show, which went well. They soon got an irregular spot on weekend afternoons as the "Kevin and Rock Show." And they eventually became the station's top fill-in option.
And so fast forward to this September, when Parrish was talking to a tailgater at FedEx Field who also sells cars to Haynesworth. The friend offered to connect Parrish with Haynesworth, and when the defensive tackle surprised Parrish with a call to his cell phone, he drove to Reston for a chat. The next day, the Redskins were flying to St. Louis, and almost immediately after he landed, Haynesworth called in to the show, making what to that point were his most extensive public comments of the season.
Parrish - who has worked with several high-profile athletes through Nike -- maintained the relationship with Haynesworth, texting frequently throughout the season. He never asked for another interview. Monday night, he was home with his kids when his phone rang.
"Hey, can we go on the air tonight?" Haynesworth asked him.
"I was like, 'Dude, I don't have a weekday show,' " Parrish answered.
"I've got some stuff I've really got to get off my chest," Haynesworth insisted.
Within 90 minutes, Parrish, Shafer and the station's Redskins beat reporter Grant Paulsen had assembled in the studio, and they invited Haynesworth to get that stuff off his chest. He decried the "haters" and "cowards" inside the Redskins organization, said people were "making up lies" about him, encouraged anyhow critical of a bad practice session to "sue me," and said the "kid games" going on in Ashburn "just make me sick."
And within the next 24 hours, the interview was being cited on ESPN, by Jim Rome's nationally syndicated radio show and by the Associated Press.
"Kind of a whirlwind," Parrish said on Tuesday. "Not that I haven't been through it before. But not like this."
"It's a testament to them -- they put the work in to develop that relationship," Kinard said. "Albert Haynesworth's kind of an outsider here -- I think he probably doesn't have any trust in the day-to-day media out at the Park. I don't think it's any weird coincidence that he developed a relationship with Kevin and Rock, who are kind of media outsiders. They're not in the inner circle, they're not The Post or Comcast SportsNet or Lindsay Czarniak. I think that platform was probably something he was looking for."