ESPN NFL reporter Sal Paolantonio, as you might know, “served five years in the United States Navy from 1978-83, during which time he was awarded the United Nations Meritorious Service Medal in 1981 for supervising the rescue of Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.” The future reporter went to Officer Candidate School, served on two ships in the Pacific fleet and “chased Russian submarines around the Indian Ocean during the Cold War,” according to an interview he did with ESPN public relations.
So I guess I’ll go ahead and quote his comments on Robert Griffin III from Tony Kornheiser’s ESPN 980 program Thursday morning. This all happened after a mostly unrelated question about the head-coaching job in Philadelphia, with Paolantonio pointing out some of the difficulties of life in the NFC East.
“I covered four out of the last five games of Robert Griffin III,” Paolantonio said. “I’ve got to tell you, setting all the astonishing statistical superlatives for a moment — set that all aside. Here’s what I really like about this guy, being around him four out of the last five weeks, watching him up close, talking to players and coaches about him.
“And I don’t use military metaphors loosely, because I was a Navy officer,” he went on. “I think it can be trite and silly. But age 22? I know what it takes to be a good one. He’s got the command, the presence, the charisma, the poise, the generosity of spirit, the personal physical courage, the toughness, the dynamic range of understanding that you have to treat [different personalities] differently if you want to be the leader of a large group of men.
“You could put this guy, Robert Griffin III – and I know he has a military background – you could put him in a Marine Corps officers uniform right now and he could lead men into battle. And I don’t ever say that about football players, because I know what it takes to do that. But he’s got IT.
“And I’ll tell you what, Dan Snyder, that Redskins franchise, that fan base, they truly have a unique young man on their hands. And he’s gonna be the face of football not only there but also around the NFL for a generation. He’s a very unique character.”
Then Kornheiser started talking about how both RGIII and Andrew Luck will captivate football audiences going forward. Paolantonio wasn’t having it.
“Having been around both of them, I think the leadership qualities and the intangibles of Robert Griffin III are what sets him apart at age 22 from anybody I’ve ever covered, anybody I’ve ever seen in 20 years of covering the National Football League,” he interjected. “Truly unique.”
So I guess he was impressed. Sort of. A bit.