Former soccer player Joanna Lohman a step closer to reaching her dream of being Redskins' GM

By Dan Steinberg
Thursday, December 3, 2009

The first time Joanna Lohman met her future boss, she told him that, among other things, she wanted to one day become the general manager of the Washington Redskins.

"That's the second thing she ever told me," recalled Craig Lussi, who hired the all-American soccer player from Penn State into the commercial real estate business.

"She was driving an old beat-up green Ford Taurus station wagon," Lussi told me this week. "I asked her what she wanted to do. She said 'I want to be GM of the Redskins.' I said, 'What makes you think you're qualified to do that?' She said 'I'll do whatever I need to do.' "

This paper has already profiled Lohman -- a Springbrook grad, professional midfielder and defender, and occasional U.S. national team call-up. But this week, when she earned her first GM job -- as the general manager of the Freedom Futures, the developmental squad associated with the Washington Freedom -- seemed an appropriate time to ask Lohman about her Redskins dream.

"That's an honest goal for me," she said. "Things have moved in a direction where I would hope that it isn't a completely unrealistic goal for myself. I'm hoping someone in the Redskins would read this and take me under their wing. Football's my favorite sport, and obviously the Redskins are my hometown team, so I've always had this love affair with the Redskins."

Indeed, she sounds like most Washingtonians of a certain age. She owns Darrell Green and LaVar Arrington jerseys, plus an old-time Redskins Starter jacket. She is part of a massive tailgating group, where she wears a Redskins bandana and is known as "The Mayor." She is friendly with Charles Mann, whose daughter plays for the club team Lohman grew up with.

Her boss, Lussi, is a longtime Redskins fan who used to watch games in Jack Kent Cooke's box. He said he could see Lohman successfully captaining the organization one day.

"Absolutely," he told me. "Joanna makes you better. She makes me better . . . You get Charles [Mann] and Joanna in a room, it's like magic, full of energy, full of life, full of ideas. You sit in that room, and you feel like there's nothing you can't do, and people like that."

So, how would she handle the festering sore that has been the 2009 season? Well, Lohman is concerned about the relationship between franchise and fans.

"I think they maybe underestimated how much this team means to the city, and I don't think you can alienate your fans for that long before you start seeing some consequences," she told me. "That's something I would take to heart. We always have a reputation in the Redskins organization for drafting and [signing] players with high glitz and fame. I think I would go back to more of a blue-collar approach, getting players that don't necessarily have the names quite yet but have the work ethic and, really, the brains."

I asked her if she'd be able to evaluate talent, and she said with enough work and study, and by hiring "some pretty smart people around me," it was absolutely possible. And her guiding philosophy?

"Building the team around the offensive line and protecting the quarterback is essential," she said. "Overlooking that can really ruin your season. No matter how good a quarterback you have, if you can't protect him, that can ruin your season. Being around Joe Paterno at Penn State, his teams have always been blue collar. We don't have names on the back of our jerseys; it's always about the team before the individual. I think the Redskins could benefit from that type of outlook a little more."

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