It’s not unusual for NFL teams to draft local players. One high profile pick was the Steelers’ selection of James Conner in the third round of the 2017 draft. Conner was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he gained national prominence in part because he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Being drafted by the Steelers completed a fairytale comeback from both illness and injury, and his subsequent success has continued the feel good story.
Redskins fans have noted the recent tendency of the front office to draft and sign players from some nationally prominent college programs, most notably of late, Alabama and Ohio State. A less obvious trend has seemed to be at play as well; that is, the Redskins seem to be bringing a lot of players “home” who have roots in the DMV area.
Again, this is not unique to the Redskins, but for anyone looking for methods in player acquisition, it seems to make good sense for a team like the Redskins, who have developed a well-earned reputation for dysfunction and losing football, to recruit players with ties to the area in hopes of building off of their “hometown pride” and the likelihood that they grew up as Redskins fans.
One high profile free agent signing from 2019 - Landon Collins - seemed to come to pass in part because of Collins’ desire to play for the Redskins. He is not from the area (he’s a Louisiana native) and didn’t play college ball in the area (he’s an Alabama alumnus), but his admiration for the late Sean Taylor made Washington a prized destination for Collins.
In this article, I’ll throw the spotlight on 11 players who have ties to the area — some strongter than others.
Defensive lineman Tim Settle went to Stonewall Jackson High School in Bull Run, near Manassas (where I lived for a few years myself). He deepened his local roots by choosing to go to college at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va. One interesting fact about Settle is that he has been teammates since high school with the next player listed — Greg Stroman — as they played together at Stonewall Jackson HS, Va Tech, and now, of course, with the Redskins.
As noted above, Stroman’s Virginia roots run deep, as he and Settle have been teammates in high school, college, and now the NFL. His father played football and basketball in the state of Virginia, and his brother, Jalen Stroman, has just finished his career at Patriot High School in Nokesville and announced his intention to follow in his older brother’s footsteps by committing to play at Virginia Tech. The family faced tragedy this week when Stroman’s cousin was shot and killed in Richmond.
Haskins was born in New Jersey, but his family moved to Maryland when he was in the ninth grade. He originally committed to play at University of Maryland before a coaching change led him to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Interestingly, the “other” team that was linked to Haskins pre-draft, the NY Giants, would have also represented a “return home” for the NJ native.
Young is another player from Maryland, but was actually born and raised in the state, attending schools in Oxen Hill and Laurel before ending up playing for DeMatha High School in Hyattsville. His father is a retired police deputy who worked in Virginia. A number of family members have a history of working in law enforcement, and Young’s father has said that if Dwayne doesn’t have a long NFL career, then he (Dwayne) will pursue a career in law enforcement himself, as it is the family business so to speak. Clearly, Young appreciates what it means to be drafted by his local NFL team:
I get to play in front of my family, I get to put on for where I’m from. I get to be an inspiration for all the young kids growing up in my area. I mean, I get to play for the Washington Redskins, a team that I’ve watched growing up, obviously because I’m from the area. It’s a lot man. I’m just excited for real. I feel like the most exciting thing is, for home games, my parents, they don’t have to fly anywhere. They can drive 20 minutes up the road to come watch me play. And after the game, after the W, we can have a party or something. Just a little cookout or get together, something easy, something that if I got drafted anywhere else I couldn’t do.
Jon Allen moved around quite a lot, but he played high school football at Stone Bridge HS in Ashburn, VA, just a stone’s throw from Redskins Park. In 2012, as a high school senior, he was named the Gatorade Virginia Football Player of the Year.
Cornerback Jimmy Moreland went to high school in Florida, but attended college at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which is sufficient to make him a DMV native.
2020 draft pick AGG went to high school in Georgia, but became a member of the DMV by dint of attending school and playing football at Liberty University in Lynchburg.
While Darby has been gone a long time — five seasons with the Bills and Eagles, and a college career at Florida State — he is a Maryland native who was born and raised in Oxen Hill. Speaking to reporters in April, he said, ““I’m grateful for the opportunity in Washington. I’m from the DMV area, so I grew up a Redskins fan. Just to come back home to play for the team I grew up loving is really something huge.”
Another 2020 free agent, tight end Logan Thomas, was born in Lynchburg, where he attended Brookville High School before going on to a 4-year career at Virginia Tech, where he played quarterback. While Thomas is now a tight end, he has played quarterback in the NFL, but completed only one pass as an NFL quarterback — an 81-yard touchdown. He has a second completed pass on his NFL stat sheet, but that came on a fake punt when he was playing tight end for the Bills in 2018.
The Fuller family’s ties to the DMV and the NFL run deep. Fuller attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, and then played for the Virginia Tech Hokies — one of many defensive backs from that school to play for the Redskins in recent years. Kendall is the youngest of four brothers to have all played in the NFL. Vincent Fuller played safety for seven seasons, Corey Fuller played for 5 seasons as a wide receiver, and Kyle is beginning his seventh season with the Bears. Fuller’s parents live in Baltimore now, and in a recent media Q&A session, he joked that, with his return to the Redskins, they would probably want to move in with him. He sounded very happy to be returning to the area, saying, “As soon as my agent called me about the [Redskins] offer and things like that, as soon as they called me, I said, ‘Say yes; let’s do it!’”
While Sean Davis spent the first four years of his NFL career in Pittsburgh, he is a native son of DC, having attended Maret High Scool in the District before going to the University of Maryland from 2012 to 2015. When Davis was signed by the Redskins this off-season, he spoke of coming home to DC as the most natural thing in the world:
It was a no-brainer, honestly. I’m born and raised in Washington, D.C., went to high school in D.C., went to the University of Maryland College Park – I’m grounded in Maryland. I’m grounded in that area, so the opportunity to come home and play for the Redskins was a no-brainer for me. It was a really easy decision, I’m just glad to be a part of the organization.
As the Redskins attempt to reverse the negative results of the past quarter-century, it appears as if they have tried to do more than simply fire Bruce Allen and replace the coaching staff. It appears as if they have tried to target players in the draft that come from big-time winning programs — players with a tough, positive mindset and a foundation in hard work and success. But it appears that they also see added value in guys who are from the area, players who grew up around the Redskins and who find the DC area a natural and comfortable place to be as the organization tries to build an atmosphere of family, trust and success for the future.