When Springbrook Athletic Director Rob Wendel got a phone call recently about new uniforms for the Blue Devils football team, he asked his football coach, Adam Bahr, what this was all about. Bahr wasn’t quite sure.
“I said ‘I guess it could have been this contest we entered,’ ” Bahr recalled late last week. “Honestly, I had forgotten all about it.”
Bahr’s guess turned out to be correct. The Montgomery County school was chosen as the Maryland winner of a contest sponsored by Pierre Garcon, a contest that received virtually no fanfare. The Redskins receiver — working with Russell Athletic, one of his sponsors – announced online that he would personally provide 150 new football uniforms to one high school each in Virginia, Maryland and the District. The winners would be chosen via Facebook votes.
Bahr had gone to Springbrook himself, and one of his friends from high school suggested he launch an effort to win the prize. But neither he nor his assistants tracked the voting or mounted a coordinated campaign. and now, suddenly, their school’s worn-out uniforms would be obsolete.
“What it means for our program, it’s unbelievable,” said Bahr a longtime assistant who just completed his first year as the school’s head coach. “Our football budget and our athletic budget – like many other schools in the area, I’m sure – are just strapped for cash. It’s an unbelievable gift and gesture, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
The reaction was similar across the Potomac in Fairfax County, where Thomas Jefferson Director of Student Activities Shawn DeRose hadn’t even heard of this contest. Social-media savvy students there decided to push for the prize; DeRose knew nothing until receiving a call saying the Colonials had been chosen.
“This was entirely student-driven; our kids really deserve the primary credit for nominating our school and then voting to win this thing,” DeRose said. “This is going to be tremendous for us, because as you can imagine, football uniforms come at a high cost….We don’t have a large group of at-risk students, but we have to manage our money wisely to make it go as far as it can. We do not have a wealthy athletic budget.”
In the District, a similar prize will be given to Theodore Roosevelt High, which joins Springbrook and Jefferson in forming an unlikely trio from three very different communities, none with any connection to the 26-year old receiver.
“I’m not tied to any of those schools; it was just whatever schools really needed jerseys and were willing to follow the contest,” Garcon told me. “We just really wanted to help out, and be a part of the community. The kids voted, they signed up, they made it happen. We just put it out there, and they ran with it.”
After signing with the Redskins as a free agent in 2012, Garcon was still settling into the area last year at this time. That prevented him from making a similar gesture before his first season in Washington.
“Everything was so hectic, and it was too tough to get linked in,” said his agent, Brad Cicala, who helped conceive the giveaway.
The receiver then spent part of his first season in Washington battling injuries, before helping lead the team’s playoff charge. And he said the gift – whose retail value will wind up totaling around $60,000 – is about connecting with the people who cheer him and his teammates on.
“The community is what makes the Washington Redskins,” Garcon said. “That’s what makes us keep moving forward. They support us, and we support them.”
This contest won’t likely hurt that support. DeRose said Garcon’s gift will help impress upon students “the importance of giving back to your community, and that’s one of the missions of our school.”
At Springbrook, Bahr already started texting his players, who for years have been “relentless” about asking for new uniforms.
“They were thrilled, shocked, surprised; they thought I was joking at first,” he said. “There’s a lot of banter about professional football during the year, and we’re more Redskins fans than anything else. But I know that we’re all Pierre Garcon fans now.”