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I Have Seen the Light!

By Mark Solway | September 25th, 2006

I’ve been converted, I am now a believer. Whereas I once knew nothing, I now know everything. I am referring, of course, to Antwaan Randle-El. Before the offseason, I knew about as much of Randle-El as the rest of the country did. I knew he was a converted quarterback, I knew that he could run, throw and pass, I knew that he didn’t catch many passes. It is what I didn’t know that now impresses me so much. When the Redskins pursued Randle-El vigorously in the early morning hours of the free-agency period, I kept an open mind. Joe Gibbs knows a thing or two about football, I figured, so I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. This time, at least. But then the mediots got to talking. The Redskins paid too much. Randle-El doesn’t affect the game enough to warrant the 8 billion dollar contract Daniel Snyder just gave him. He’s a waste of money. I’ll admit that I got scared. I started listening to what was being said, and questioning the move. Most of all, I had visions of Dexter Jackson in my head, a player who performs in the Super Bowl, signs a big contact elsewhere, and then fades off into football oblivion. I was concerned now that Randle-El had snagged that big contract, he would settle into a nice, lazy playing style for a couple of years before he was released, and he and Dexter could compare signing bonuses on a beach somewhere. I like to think of myself as a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong, and boy was I ever wrong on this one. I don’t know if Randle-El played this way in Pittsburgh, because I wasn’t paying attention, but since he joined the Redskins, I can’t say I’ve seen him not go full-speed on any play. There are few players in the NFL (Sean Taylor is in this group) that you’ll notice flying around on every play, where you can actually see them giving 110%, sacrificing their bodies – on every play. I am now convinced that Randle-El falls into that elite group. I had noticed his efforts in the first two games of the season, remarking on several plays during the game on a nice block he made, or when he would fight for extra yardage, or run fearlessly into a bevy of tacklers on a punt return. But one play convinced me that this man loves to play football – and moreover, appears to love being a Redskin. It was the draw play to Portis the Redskins ran in the closing seconds of the first half, which appears to have been an effort to gain a few more yards for Hall’s field goal attempt, but ended up going for the touchdown. On the play, Randle-El started in the left slot. On the snap, he cut inside and hit the outside linebacker, slowing him enough for Portis to slip by and into the secondary. Randle-El lost his feet, but jumped up and sprinted downfield after Portis, and threw his body at a would-be tackler in an effort to spring the running back into the end zone. Once Portis was in for the touch, Randle-El came over and excitedly congratulated him. On this play, Randle-El’s play was the definition of ‘extra-effort’. He could have easily made his first block, and sat there on the turf and watched the rest of the play. He could have walked back to the sideline afterwards, wondering why his number wasn’t called. He didn’t have to make the effort that he did, but he made it. And that effort, combined with the mounting evidence from the earlier two games plus the preseason, is what convinced me that Randle-El is a Redskin. I mean, we all know he’s a Redskin. But he’s a Redskin according to Joe Gibb’s definition, a definition that only us fans know and understand. And that, my friends, makes Antwaan Randle-El worth every penny he’s being…

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