Thousands of Redskins fans – and even a few non-Redskins fans – showed up Saturday at FedEx Field for the team’s draft day celebration and to get a glimpse of Washington’s newest star attraction, Robert Griffin III.
There were plenty of activities to keep them busy as they waited for Griffin to arrive. Kids tossed footballs and attempted to kick field goals off a tee. The team’s marching band played and current and former Redskins players signed autographs.
Eddie Hicks and three of his friends sported No. 10 burgundy jerseys with “Griffin III” on the back as they watched Coach Mike Shanahan deliver a pre-taped message to fans from the stadium’s video board.
Hicks said his quartet had purchased their Griffin jerseys Friday, a few hours after Washington selected Griffin out of Baylor with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Hicks’s comments reflected the anticipation shared by nearly everyone else in attendance Saturday. He excited about Griffin’s potential as a quarterback, but expects Griffin’s impact on the team to be more wide-ranging.
“Who he is and what he brings to the locker room will inspire more players to work harder,” Hicks said. “That’s what I think the team lacked last year, that winning attitude and culture.”
Hicks and many others who gathered at FedEx Field on Saturday already have been captivated by Griffin’s demeanor and charisma. “His swag,” as Hicks described it, gives them hope that perhaps the team finally has found its long-term answer at quarterback. That’s why he couldn’t wait more than a few hours after Griffin’s selection to purchase a No. 10 jersey, he said.
“It’s RGIII,” Hicks said. “There’s no need to wait.”
When the day began, Hicks and many others had to do just that. The line outside Gate H started forming two hours before the stadium opened, and by 11:30 a.m. it snaked so far around the bowl its end wasn’t visible from its origin. A security official said the team expected 700-1,000 fans to come, though he wasn’t sure whether the chilly weather and overcast skies would keep some folks at home.
When the gates opened, fans dispersed in a number of directions. A portion of the crowd, decked out in burgundy and gold, poured into a fenced-in merchandise area and proceeded to buy more burgundy and gold. Some picked up raffle tickets for a variety of collectible items that would be given out later in the day. Others headed straight to the bathroom. It had been a long wait.
For fans like Rick Kidwell, the wait was worth it. A middle-aged man dressed in a burgundy Sammy Baugh jersey, Kidwell stood for the first time in his life on the grass field where his heroes play on fall Sundays. He carried with him a commemorative football he’d purchased 10 years ago. The dates of each Redskins Super Bowl victory were printed on a portion of white leather on one panel of the football.
“We haven’t had one in a while,” Kidwell said. “It’s coming, though.”
By the end of the day, Kidwell hoped to have the adjacent white panel on the ball filled with players’ signatures.
“It’s all about the Redskins, baby,” Kidwell said. “It’s not all about RGIII, but that helps.”
Griffin is what led Keith Nell and dozens of other fans to huddle around the gates that surrounded a dais at one end of the field. Griffin wasn’t scheduled to address the crowd for another three hours, but Nell said he wanted to make sure he secured a spot where he could catch an unobstructed, close-up view of the rookie quarterback.
“It’s been a long time since we had a quarterback around here,” said Nell, 33, who grew up in Woodbridge and now lives near FedEx Field. “We’ve been through the Schulers and the Ramseys and the Campbells. Finally, we’ve got somebody we all can fall behind.”
Tony Sawyers can’t fall behind Griffin, and he’s a little upset about it. His family is full of Redskins fans who’ve had season tickets for 20 years, but his allegiance lies with the Dallas Cowboys. Sawyers said he was hoping Griffin wouldn’t land in Washington so that he could root for the dynamic Heisman Trophy winner on the field, but he’ll settle for being able to appreciate Griffin off it.
That’s why he and his 11-year-old son, Trevon, who also is a Cowboys fan, came to FedEx Field on Saturday.
“Whether I’m a Redskins fan or not,” Sawyers said, “RGIII is such a good character guy that my son needs to see him.”