Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan brought rookie running back Roy Helu along slowly before turning him loose in Week 12 because the coach said he didn’t want to heap too much pressure on the Nebraska product’s shoulders.
Following Helu’s big game on Sunday, however, the expectations have been heightened. But Helu doesn’t expect to fold under that pressure, and he credits his father and his faith for that.
“You can allow [pressure] to [affect you], even if I’m not a rookie,” said Helu, who carried the ball 23 times for 108 yards – both career highs – and scored his first NFL touchdown in Sunday’s win at Seattle. “But I believe in my faith. I’ve prayed through it and I believe that Jesus is willing to take all that pressure off of me. Through the game I was just praying through certain situations and I had this calm, this confidence through my relationship with God and talking with him and from how well we were doing on offense.”
Helu continued: “I’ve heard a saying that’s definitely true: ‘You want to see someone change, throw a little success at them.’ Either I’m going to be the type of person that hoards it or I might become fearful that I won’t repeat last week’s performance, or I humble myself and that looks like for me: being in a right relationship with God, and knowing that everything’s bigger than me. We have a whole other offensive dimension in throwing the ball in play action. So with us doing that well, too. That automatically takes pressure off of me.”
Helu is also trying to take the increased workload and success in stride by remembering that last week has come and gone and that he has to shine consistently to establish himself with the team. He believes that the more opportunities he gets, the better he will do. He learned that lesson from his father, Roy Sr. – a former member of the U.S. national rugby team.
“My dad’s has always instilled a confidence in me since I was younger. He’s been telling me, ‘The more carries you get, every time I see you, you only get stronger.’ So we’ll see how it goes this week.”
Helu impressed his teammates and coaches alike with his performance on Sunday as well as with the way he has carried himself this season.
“I forget he’s a rookie some times,” tight end Fred Davis said. “He’s got a lot of character to be a rookie. Work-hard guy.”
Helu has made his biggest strides in pass protection, where at Nebraska he wasn’t asked to handle many of those duties. But in the NFL, it’s crucial, especial with the Redskins, whose system is more challenging in that aspect for a running back to learn.
That’s part of the reason why Shanahan opted to bring Helu along slowly.
“It’s not just our terminology or our system. I think we do a number of different things relative to personnel groups,” Shanahan said. “We ask our backs to do a lot of different routes and a lot of different protections. We don’t want to throw a guy in there until he’s ready. We think he has done a good job picking it up as quickly as he has. Like I said, he played well.”