Editor’s note: Wide receiver Niles Paul, drafted by the Redskins in the fifth round out of Nebraska, is keeping a weekly diary for The Post about his efforts to cope with the NFL lockout and make the team.
Growing in a family full of athletes, football was almost something I was expected to do.
My dad and all his brothers were arguably some the top athletes in the area of their time. I grew up in the shadow of my uncle, Ahman Green, all my life. I started playing football at the age of 8 and when I saw how happy my uncle made my family when he was on the field, I was determined to do that, too.
I was so determined that I made a promise to my mom at the age of 8 that I would play football for the University of Nebraska and make it to the NFL just like my “Uncle Moni.”
I played football all the way up until I was 12 and then I stopped. Not because I didn't love playing it, but because my mom was a big part of the reason I played football. When she died, I felt little lost and confused because I was doing it to make her proud but she was no longer there.
So instead of football I focused on sports like basketball and track.
I had been running track all my life so that came natural to me, but basketball is what I quickly fell in love with. In high school I really just wanted to focus on basketball and track because football just didn’t feel the same to me anymore.
I even went as far as to sign up for the cross country team, which started when football season started. My plans quickly changed when my Uncle Jimmy, who is like a second father to me, called me and told me he wanted me to play football instead of run cross country.
He told me just the words I needed to help me remember the promise I made to my mom when I was younger. I thank him every time I see him, because without him, I wouldn't have been presented with this opportunity to be a professional football player for the Washington Redskins.
I ended up starting at WR/DB every year I played football and ended up being offered a football scholarship to Nebraska after only my first year of high school football. I also started varsity basketball every year I played. I ended my senior year leading the state in rebounds with 13 a game and I was third in scoring, averaging 20 points a game.
I had looks in basketball, but I knew it was just something I played to stay busy and football was my true passion. I also had a very successful track career in high school. I was three-time state champion in 110- meter hurdles in 2005, ’06 and ’07, a two-time state champion in the 300-meter hurdles ('05 and '06). In 2006, I also was on the state-champion-winning 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams. That same year, I helped lead my high school to an overall team state championship, and there were only five of us that had qualified for the state meet that year.
Just as I did in basketball, I ignored the offers I was getting and just used track as a means to keep me busy until I could start prepping for football.
To this day, I still remember the promise I made to my mom and I know that I'm nowhere near finished or satisfied until I feel like I can say that I completed my promise to her and so much more.