Not long after Jimmy Farris signed with the Redskins in 2005, the unassuming wide receiver from Division I-AA Montana took a day trip into the city. He played tourist for the day, driving by the monuments, going past the Capitol Building, seeing the White House.
By that point, Farris had already begun his transformation from a politically apathetic teenager to an increasingly interested 20-something. And he said the sight-seeing left a mark.
“It’s funny, that stuff is awe-inspiring for someone who had never been there or seen some of that,” Farris told me this week. “I remember being there and thinking what a calling it is to be a part of this, what an honor for these guys to serve in Congress.”
Which helps explain why Farris is now trying to answer that calling himself. The 33-year old, who spent parts of three seasons with the Joe Gibbs-led Skins, announced over the weekend that he’d be running for Idaho’s 1st Congressional seat, against incumbent Rep. Raul Labrador (R).
That makes Farris at least the third former Redskin to run for Congress in recent years, following Heath Shuler, a longtime representative from North Carolina, and Clint Didier, who ran an unsuccessful Senate campaign in Washington.
Farris consulted with fellow Democrat Shuler during a recent trip to Washington, and the two men talked about the challenges of transitioning from football to politics. Shuler has mostly shied away from NFL talk during his political career, but Farris — who spent six years skipping along the margins of NFL rosters — accepts the natural comparison with his longshot campaign.
“I think that analogy is apt, and I certainly draw on that experience to remind me that it doesn’t matter what things look like,” Farris said. “It doesn’t matter what people think or say or how they rate you on paper. It’s about doing the things I’ve done my whole career: work hard, be committed, be passionate, love what you’re doing, give it everything you’ve got and let it fall where it may.”
And so sure, let’s revisit a Washington career chronicled largely by former Post columnist George Solomon, who dubbed Farris his favorite NFL player in 2005.
Farris drew some attention that preseason when he caught two touchdowns in a preseason meeting with the Ravens; “A little ol’ guy who fights his guts out,” Gibbs called him. He didn’t make the roster but was brought back during the season, and when injuries sidelined both James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs, Farris was lining up as the second receiver alongside Santana Moss during the team’s playoff loss in Seattle.
The 6-footer was one of the final cuts in 2006 but was brought back in 2007, playing special teams before being cut again before the postseason.
Those were his last NFL appearances, although he spent a mini-camp with the Saints the following year. After he retired, Farris began appearing as an analyst on Comcast Sports Southeast, but he had always planned to move back to his home state of Idaho to put down roots and start a family. His burgeoning political interest and a desire “to try to come up with some solutions rather than just be a guy on the sideline pointing fingers” led him to reach out to several Democratic Party officials about a statehouse run. Then they started thinking a little bigger, despite Farris’s lack of political experience.
“The only other elected office I ran for was the student body vice president when I was in 8th grade,” he noted. “I lost.”
Farris will be back in Washington next week for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event, and already has plans to meet with former teammates Chris Cooley and Shawn Springs. He also hopes to reach out to Gibbs, despite the coach’s differing political affiliation.
“I’d love to talk to him and even seek his opinion and seek his advice, even though he’s on the other side,” Farris said. “One thing you can say about Joe Gibbs; he put a group of guys together that really just loved to play and enjoyed being Redskins. It means something to be a Redskin. That in itself is kind of a fraternity.”
As for his chances as a Democrat running in a Republican state, Farris doesn’t look at it quite like that. Every person has one vote and two choices, he figures.
“I’ve faced longer odds than that trying to make the Redskins roster, trying to make the Falcons roster,” he said. “That’s a 50-50 proposition, and my goal is to get to each one of those voters, get in front of them, talk to them, shake their hand, and convince them that I’m the best guy to represent them in Congress.”