Rich Bruno probably took Robert Griffin III’s dislocated ankle harder than most Redskins fans. By Bruno’s recollection, the quarterback’s injury early last season left him on the ground, in the fetal position, sobbing.
Then he thought some more. He thought about how Griffin would rehab the injury and eventually return. He thought about how the subsequent comeback would be a triumph both of the Redskins quarterback and of podiatry. And then Bruno — one of the biggest Redskins fans you’re likely to encounter, and a second-year student at Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine — felt something different.
“All of my loves in life had combined into a singular moment,” he wrote on Facebook. “I squealed like a school girl thinking about how one day, maybe I could be that specialist a player sees.”
Many months later, Griffin decided to auction off the now-autographed cast he wore during his recovery, to raise money for his fledgling foundation. Bruno already has a raft of Redskins memorabilia — about 20 game-worn jerseys, about the same number of signed mini-helmets, five full-sized helmets, photos, pennants, cups, bobbleheads. But nothing spoke to him as powerfully as that cast, the perfect distillation of his greatest passions.
Which is why, last Friday evening, Bruno found himself celebrating in the passenger seat of a car, having just won the auction for one of Washington’s most disgusting sports mementos. The winning bid was $1,522, a price that will likely require Bruno to liquidate some of his other keepsakes. He has no complaints.
“It’s like recapturing that moment forever,” Bruno said, referring to the day Griffin was injured and his interests converged. “This is why I’m doing what I do every day. This is just more motivation or desire to be the best I can be.”
As he celebrated, the 26-year old Bruno recorded Snapchat videos, “just talking about how much I love podiatry, how much I love the Redskins and RGII,” he recalled. “Just getting hyped and letting it out.”
Friends, as you’d expect, have told him that he’s loony, a nut. Others have joked that the smarter move would be to wait for RGIII’s next serious injury, and then get a better price on the resulting medical waste.
Those who know him best, though, can’t be too surprised. Bruno was raised outside Philadelphia, but his grandfather is a Northern Virginia native and devoted Redskins fan, who insisted that Bruno be raised the same. And if you follow him on Twitter — where he goes by “Redskins Rich,” the name fans know him by — you’ve seen how he tries to share his passion, bringing jerseys and autographs and photos to training camp and giving them away to strangers.
“Because I want to give back to the people that make my life better,” he explained. “I love Redskins Nation. I love being a Redskins fan. I see people helping each other, and I want to be a part of that. I want to make people happy and smile.”
Don’t expect the cast to become one of those giveaway items, though. Bruno suffered multiple foot fractures and injuries playing sports as a kid, which is what led him to podiatry. He’s hoping Temple’s School of Podiatric Medicine will put the cast behind glass and temporarily display it with its other notable foot-and-ankle curios. He hopes to one day display it in his own medical office.
You’re wondering, of course, if Bruno is one of those Griffin partisans, who seem almost to care more about the quarterback than the team. Not exactly. Sure, he followed his career at Baylor, dreaming of what the young star could do for Washington. And sure, he had the same magical feelings in 2012 as everyone else. But the main point is that Griffin is a member of the Redskins, and Bruno supports the Redskins.
Happy/honored to say I'm the crazy new owner of @RGIII's ankle cast. Podiatry+Redskins=bliss. Can't wait to display it in my office one day!
— RedskinRich (@RedskinsRich) February 14, 2015
— Family of 3 (@Fo3Foundation) February 14, 2015
“There’s been some misfortune, but I don’t quit on any member of this team until they’re no longer a part of it,” he said. “If anyone can get back to where they were, it’s him.”
Which takes us back to that cast. It was signed by a bunch of Griffin’s teammates, and it looks to be in fairly good shape, judging from the photos. Still, it was worn on the man’s foot. Isn’t there a chance that it will, you know, smell?
“Probably,” Bruno admitted. “The worse it smells, the happier I am, because that makes it more unique. Some people have RGIII game-worn jerseys, and they’re stained or whatever. I might have his foot stink. That’s special to me.”
Or, like he wrote on Facebook, “I could not be happier. CARRY ON FOR PODIATRY AND HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!”