Stephen Cooper Archive

Lifelong Fan Passing On Tradition To Children

Brian Jacobs claims he has been a Redskins fan from birth, but he was “locked in for life” when former wide receiver Charley Taylor paid him visits as a seven year old.

“My stepfather had a boat in Dumphries, Va., a few docks down from Charley Taylor and he used to come to my house in Woodbridge,” Jacobs wrote to The Redskins Blog.

Jacobs, who has been going to games his whole life, used to be a season ticket holder but lost his job and home after experiencing some health issues. He still catches every game on television and still tries to make it to FedExField a few times each season.

“My relationship with sports is, I would die without Redskins football,” he wrote. “They are my life when I die I want to be buried with a Redskin jersey on.”

Since the mid-1990s, Jacobs has been channeling his love into a Redskins tribute room and has bought thousands of dollars worth of items. But, since he moved a few years back, he’s had to start from scratch, selling some of his memorabilia to take care of his kids in a new home in Hagerstown, Md.

As fate would have it, many years later Jacobs’ son would get to experience what his father had.

👍 HTTR ! pic.twitter.com/uRrpAOfYbD

— Brian (@skinsgo46) March 4, 2015

In 2011, one of Jacobs’ all-time favorite players, another wide receiver, Gary Clark, came to his home, through a friend, in Fredericksburg, Va., to spend a Saturday afternoon with his son and the rest of his family.

“I will always be thankful and my family and I will never forget him and his kindness,” wrote Jacobs, who also noted he appeared on television with Clark during a playoff game special in 2012. “And he is still a friend on [Facebook].”

Best Of ‘Redskins Late Night’: Chris Baker’s Endless Nicknames

Swaggy.  Big Swaggy. Big Bake. Big Daddy.

Those are just four of the many, many nicknames that are attached to Washington Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker.

How exactly can one guy get so many different names?

Some were self-appointed, and some were given.

“My good friend down John Walker down in Baltimore, he gave me the name ‘Swaggy’ when we were playing a video game, and I came to the locker room and kept calling myself ‘Swaggy,’” he began.

“And I think a reporter heard it, and the next thing you know there was an article up and it was called ‘Chris Swaggy Baker.’

Ever since then it’s pretty much stuck with me.”

That swag, of course, has translated to the field as well.

One of the things new strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark wants to continue doing with players is fueling their competitive drive.

In his newly arranged weight room, Clark’s aware that while lifting dumbbells and bench pressing can be a very individual battle, players only get better when their lifting routines come with extra incentives and group challenges.

“These guys are so competitive that they will compete in anything,” Clark said on “Redskins Nation.” “They’ll take a bet of which bird will fly off that wire first and when they lose they’ll get upset about it. So they will compete in everything. So we’ll measure not just weight on the bar, but we’ll also measure bar speed. They really get into that. How far you throw a med-ball, how high you jump. All these types of measures we’ll do, it will help them to train more intently because they are competing, which is really their sweet spot.”

Clark, who was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003,  won’t be able to meet all of his players until April 20th. But, as he continues to study the roster, he’s already thinking about the message he wants to deliver upon the players’ arrivals.

“One of the main things I’ll tell them is if you are in this room, you’re a world-class athlete, and you need to train like one,” Clark said. “You need to train like one here, you need to eat like one, you need to sleep like one, you need to do everything in your life like you’re a world-class athlete. Their time playing in this game is very short. Make the most of it. Don’t leave anything to chance.”

Flashback Friday: Mark Moseley At Northern Virginia Senior Olympics

There’s no date on this photo but you can tell this shot was taken some time ago.

Just look at legendary Redskins kicker Mark Moseley’s jeans.

This must have been a special moment for “Grandma,” however, and it appears she didn’t pull a “Lucy” on one of the last straight-on style kickers.

Moseley played over 12 years with the Redskins, and was part of the Super Bowl XVII victory against the Dolphins during the 1982-83 season in which he won the MVP Award. To this day he is the only kicker to take home such honors.

That year, a strike-shortened nine-game season, Moseley hit 20 of 21 field goal attempts, leading the league with a 95.2 field goal percentage. The next year he also led the league in total points, tallying 161 with 33 field goals made.

“I realize now how fortunate I was,” Moseley told ESPN last year. “People keep asking to see the trophy but I don’t have anything. They gave you nothing back then. All I got was the front page of the Washington Post — I have it on a wall and I framed it. That’s all I have.”

Moseley is now a director of franchise development with the Five Guys burgers chain and has made the transition from football into business seamlessly.

And, if you were wondering, the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics is still a thing. It takes place every September and, like this photo suggests, you never who might show up.

Akeem Davis Enjoying Watching His Daughter Grow

When Akeem Davis’ daughter, Carsyn, was born last August, he couldn’t muster any words to explain the moment.

Now, six months and a whole lot of growing later, the Memphis product is not only able to speak at length about his daughter, but said she’s “as tough as a two-dollar steak.”

“She’s growing like weeds,” he told Redskins.com’s Andrew Walker recently. “I walk in the house and she’s in her bouncer smiling, brightening up my day. She’s at the age now where she’s getting personality; she knows what she wants when she wants it. And when she wants it, she’s going to get it.”

While Davis may be part of the exclusive fraternity of NFL players, he’s like any other parent of a young child. Sleep is very hard to come by.

“Not getting as much as I like, but I’ll sacrifice at the end of the day,” he said.

Rich Williams, Kansas Guitarist, Wife Debbie, Talk Redskins And Football

Rich Williams, the original guitarist from the classic rock band Kansas, has done many interviews over his lifetime. But he and his wife, Debbie Williams, were intrigued when The Redskins Blog reached out to ask them not about music, but about football.

“It’s funny with all of the hype and anticipation of the Kansas documentary release this month, a request for my Redskins story is a surprise,” Debbie wrote before she and Williams spoke to us over the phone.

The couple lives in Atlanta, Ga., where the band has relocated over the years, but Debbie, a native of Cheverly, Md., unquestionably, has remained devoted to rooting for the Redskins.

“My father was an extreme Redskins fan, and not like the kind that went to games, he was poor, but [his] family was Redskins’ lovers and it just trickled down to the rest of us,” Debbie said.

“One of the earliest memories he has was listening to the Redskins on the radio,” she said. “[The team] was kind of something that he and I had, we bonded over that, and that’s why it means so much to me.”

Williams never had the same kind of football devotion, growing up in Topeka, Kan., but supports the Chiefs and has adopted the Falcons in his new city. However, living with his wife has made him root for the Redskins on game days.

“He does love the Redskins,” Debbie said of Williams. “He doesn’t have a choice because he knows if they lose I’m going to be in a bad mood.”

“I was in Dallas at the airport,” Williams said, “and I went into this Cowboys store and I took a couple of pictures with this Cowboys hat on. We had a serious talk about that.”

According to Debbie, football season is the best time to be around the band. Everyone has their own team they root for and it’s always a topic of discussion, especially when they’re on tour.

“We see the affection people have — there’s a need to have loyalty to your team or your group,” said Debbie, who has “Hail to the Redskins” on her iPod. “I see the same intensity to your home team as you [give] to the band and the music that you hold.”

Williams said he’s mesmerized by how his wife picks out fans while the band tours. Driving in their car, which boasts a few Redskins magnets, Debbie will wave to others with jerseys on and always finds new people to interact with over the country.

“If you’re not born into it, you don’t really understand it,” Williams said.

He, along with the original band members, are preparing for the release of their new documentary called “Miracles Out Of Nowhere.”

“It’s about the original band, telling our story coming out of Topeka, Kansas,” he said. “It talks about the first five albums, coming from obscurity and the unlikely miracle of us succeeding, climbing up the mountain.”

So, you can expect to hear “Carry On My Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind” among their other classics in the film. It just might take some nudging from Debbie for Kansas to try out a version of “Hail to the Redskins.”

Redskins, Niles Paul Reach New Contract

As he headed into his first potential offseason as an unrestricted free agent in the NFL, tight end Niles Paul knew there would be a few teams interested in his services both on offense and on special teams.

But before listening to any of those offers with the start of free agency next week, Paul said it was important to remain loyal to the Washington Redskins, the team that drafted him in the fifth round in the 2011 NFL Draft.

That loyalty paid off on Friday, as the team announced it had re-signed the Nebraska product, who is coming off a career year in 2014. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I’m excited,” Paul told host Larry Michael Friday on “Redskins Nation.” “I’m excited to be back. This is home.”

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said last season that he believed Paul was “one of the most improved players on this team.”

“Not just in the passing game but in the running game,” Gruden said. “He has done an outstanding job blocking, and not to mention he is one of Coach [Ben] Kotwica’s core guys on special teams. So he has really been a very active player for us, a very valuable player for us, very much improved in the passing game as far as route running, route definition.”

Making the transition
Paul – an All-Big 12 Conference second team wide receiver and kick returner at Nebraska – was tasked with switching to tight end after his rookie season with the Redskins.

While both positions certainly require pass-catching abilities, tight ends often go against defensive linemen and linebackers that are much larger than them.

The move has, over time, paid off for Paul, 25, who set career highs across the board in 2014, accumulating more than 500 receiving yards for the first time, while also scoring his first touchdown since the 2012 season.

But Paul said his transition from wide receiver to tight end certainly hasn’t been easy.

The Omaha, Neb., native said he bulked up a little too much during the 2013 season, and used the offseason to head into 2014 at a more comfortable playing weight.

“Two years ago I put on a lot of unhealthy weight on and I was like 245 and I didn’t like how I felt at that,” Paul said. “So, I dropped down and this year and I’ve maintained being around 236 pounds and my body fat is back to where it is normally at which is around seven percent.”

With comfort came immediate success for Paul, who became a valuable commodity for the Redskins’ offense after starting tight end Jordan Reed went down with a hamstring injury seven plays into their 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans.

In that game, Paul posted then-career bests in receptions (four), receiving yards (86) and long reception (48 yards), and upstaged that performance the next week in a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, catching eight passes for 99 yards and a touchdown – his first since 2012.

“I am happy for this opportunity to play,” Paul said after that performance. “But, it’s just important that I stay humble and keep doing what I have been doing, which is working hard and grinding it out through practice, and [tight ends] coach Wes Phillips knows it.”

Paul continued to be a key part of the offense as Reed slowly worked his way back into the lineup. In Week 4 against the New York Giants, he became the first Redskins right end since Chris Cooley in 2007 to record at least 60 receiving yards in four consecutive games, and he logged a career-best 50-yard reception Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, the longest for a Washington tight end since a 71-yard Fred Davis scamper in 2010.

Paul said he’s hoping to see his success carry over into the 2015 season and beyond.

“I think last year was the first year I really got to show what I was capable of as a player and become an important part of this offense,” he told Michael on Friday. “I think, just carrying over to next year, now that the coaches know what I’m capable of, it’ll create more opportunities for me in this offense.”

Reed also benefited from Paul’s ascension, catching 49 passes for 461 yards in the 10 games after his return.

“To pair him with Niles, like you said, in two-tight end sets, if they stay in their base people, safety gets one of them and one of them gets paired up with a linebacker if they want to play them man-to-man,” Gruden said of Reed. “Two good matchups, then you throw DeSean [Jackson] and Pierre [Garçon] out there, it is a dream scenario. But then when you go three wide receivers and one tight end, you bring Andre [Roberts] in there, you have pretty good matchups across the board.”

Paul’s new contract with the Redskins means the team is set to return eight of its top 10 receivers from a season ago. Only running back Roy Helu Jr. (42 receptions for 477 yards and two touchdowns) and Santana Moss (10 receptions for 116 yards) are now set to become free agents next week.

Eli Harold, Max Valles Impress At Virginia Pro Day

The University of Virginia on Monday held its pro day the other day as Eli Harold and Max Valles were among those on display to all 32 teams.

Pro days offers NFL Draft prospects a more comfortable situation than the NFL Scouting Combine to showcase their talents, as they’re surrounded by old teammates at facilities they’ve been using for years.

That was the case earlier this week for pass rusher Eli Harold and several other University of Virginia products in Charlottesville, Va.

Harold – who is projected to go in the late first-round by both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN – benched 225 pounds 24 times and recorded a 34.5-inch vertical leap.

Combine that with the 4.6 second 40-yard dash he ran in Indianapolis, and Harold’s hoping his stock continues to remain among the highest entering the draft.

But he’s also not letting it inflate his confidence too much, either.

“It’s noise,” Harold told the media about the draft conversation. “I feel like ever since I was a kid, a lot of people used to speak highly of me. Remain humble. I’m just trying to do what I’ve done my whole life. I’m going to be the same person no matter whether I got in the first round or the fourth. I’m going to be the same person at the end of the day.”

Between the end of the college season and the public workouts, Harold worked with former New England Patriots strength and conditioning coach Tom Shaw on coverage drills.

While he may still play defensive end at the NFL level, some have considered he make a move to outside linebacker.

If he does convert, Harold’s making sure he’s got a good start on learning coverage techniques.

“I did D-line stuff, but I did more stuff that I’m not comfortable with,” he said. “I was working with NFL DBs doing DB drills after I got done D-line stuff. I feel like that helped me out a lot to show my athleticism. Working on that a lot, it just felt natural when I got to the combine and [at my pro day].”

In three seasons at Virginia, Harold recorded 75 tackles – 36.5 for loss – and 17.5 sacks.

Max Valles, meanwhile, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 second and recorded a 36-inch vertical leap.

In 22 games as a Cavalier, Valles, the youngest prospect in the draft at 20 years old, recorded 32 tackles and 13 sacks.

While some associate Valles as a raw prospect, the 6-foot-5, 251 pounder believes the best is yet to come.

“I’m only going to get better,” Valles said. “I still haven’t really grown to my full potential. I feel like my ceiling’s very high. I’m definitely going to get much better.”