End-of-summer blues? Not for Redskins fans. For folks in the DMV, the beginning of Fall marks the start of another exciting Washington Redskins football season.
Washington Redskins players were welcomed back to Redskins Park in Ashburn from training camp in Richmond at the 56th annual Redskins Welcome Home Luncheon at the McLean Hilton Tysons Corner on Aug. 30. It’s the only annual event where fans and corporate partners get to spend time with the entire Redskins organization, including players, coaches, alumni and cheerleaders.
This year’s event featured NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.as a special guest.
Lindsay Czarniak, ESPN and NBC sports broadcaster, was the event emcee.
Hosted by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Redskins Alumni Association, the event is the team’s largest yearly fundraiser for supporting youth programs across the region. Established in 2000, the Foundation has given back more than $20 million to the community. In 2016, the Foundation provided support and resources to more than 190,000 children, according to the Redskins.
During the VIP reception at the start of the event, Redskins players signed autographs and posed for photos with fans.
Many Redskins alumni attended the event to help present awards, including: Gary Clark, Dexter Manley, Mark Moseley, and Chris Samuels, along with Joe Jacoby, Bobby Mitchell, Brian Mitchell, Brig Owens, Rick “Doc” Walker and Doug Williams.
After the guests were seated, Redskins players and alumni were announced with fanfare as they entered the banquet room. A player, coach and/or alumnus sat at each table with the event guests at the banquet.
On stage, Redskins owner Dan Snyder introduced Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, who gave an amusing light-hearted speech pitching Virginia as the ideal site for the next Redskins stadium.
“We love the Washington Redskins here in Virginia. As you know their headquarters are here, the training camp is in Richmond. Every player lives in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Because the players are smart—they like low taxes; they like business friendly,” McAuliffe said.
“Sixty-six percent of their revenues comes from Virginia residents. A majority of season ticket holders are from… where? The Commonwealth of Virginia. So, Dan (Snyder), this is not a hard decision,” McAuliffe added.
“We’ve got it all, the mountains…the ocean… The Potomac River, they got catfish. We have dolphins that give children rides…” McAuliffe joked. “Every crab in Maryland was born in Virginia,” he added to the resounding applause from the audience.
Next, the annual award winners were announced, highlighting their milestones achieved, both on and off the field.
Marine Officer veteran Lt. Col. Justin Constantine presented the Redskins Salute Award to Tight End Vernon Davis. Given out annually, the award is presented to the current or past player who has given the most support to the military and their families.
Constantine was shot in the head by a sniper while deployed to Iraq in 2008. For his service in Iraq, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Now an inspirational speaker and veteran advocate, Constantine emphasized in his speech that veterans truly appreciate the efforts of Redskins Salute, the team’s official military appreciation program. Constantine commended Davis for his commitment to supporting the U.S. armed forces, including traveling to visit troops in Afghanistan as part of a USO tour.
After being introduced, Vernon presented Constantine with a team jersey.
During his speech, Davis said: “This award that I just received is (also) special and I will cherish it for the rest of my life. I will remember this moment and I won’t take it for granted.”
Player of the Year Awards were given to three players for their efforts on the field during the 2016 season: Jamison Crowder, Ryan Kerrigan and Kirk Cousins.
Former Redskins kicker Mark Moseley presented wide receiver and punt returner Jamison Crowder with the 2016 Mark Moseley Special Teams Player of the Year Award. Crowder was among the best returners in the NFL in 2016, according to the Washington Redskins. Off the field, Crowder volunteers for causes that include the Special Olympics.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank God,” Crowder said. “Without Him, I wouldn’t be in this position. I’d like to thank Mr. Dan Snyder, Mr. Bruce Allen, Coach Gruden for trusting and believing in me to be a part of this great organization. And I would like to thank my teammates out there, because without those other 10 guys, me being able to make plays on the special teams phase of the game wouldn’t be possible.”
Linebacker Kerrigan was given the Sam Huff Defensive Player of the Year by former Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley. Last year Kerrigan became the third Redskins player in franchise history to reach 50 career sacks—joining Manley and Charles Mann.
Kerrigan actively participates in the community on behalf of both the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and the Blitz for the Better Foundation, the organization he founded and runs which provides support for seriously ill, special needs and physically challenged children in the regional area.
“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for making this possible. I think this award is a representation of how we performed as outside linebackers last year,” Kerrigan said. “I want to thank the Charitable Foundation for all that they do for our community for putting on this great event.”
Quarterback Cousins was awarded the Bobby Mitchell Offensive Player of the Year by alumnus Chris Samuels, who had won the same award twice in the 10 years he played with the Redskins. It was Cousins’ second straight year for winning the award.
Cousins participates in helping the community through organizations that include Make-a-Wish and the Redskins Charitable Foundation.
“Obviously this award is a team award,” Cousins said. “Jay (Gruden) and Bruce (Allen) know that I need talent around me to be successful so they’ve done a really good job making sure I have it.”
“I’m very fortunate to play with the guys that I do,” he continued. “The best way to help this charitable foundation is to go win football games. When we win the games this city wins, and the people in this room win, and the people we’re trying to help win. So, let’s go win together this year, get to the playoffs—and let something special happen!”
Next, special guest Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined emcee Lindsay Czarniak on stage in a Q&A conversation.
A die-hard Redskins fan, Earnhardt reminisced about watching Redskins games while growing up. Both of his parents were Redskins fans, Earnhardt said, and he used to play football in his backyard as a kid wearing a replica team uniform.
During the past 20 years while racing in NASCAR, Earnhardt talked about checking the Redskins’ game score right before getting into his car at races on Sunday afternoons. He said that his spotter would sometimes update him with the score–but he always told him that the Redskins were winning to keep him in a good mood while racing.
During the Q & A, Earnhardt announced a new partnership between the Dale Jr. Foundation and the Redskins Charitable Foundation to build a state-of-the-art library at a public school in Washington, D.C. Launched in 2007, the Dale Jr. Foundation is dedicated to helping underprivileged people, with a focus on youth.
“We’re going to have boots on the ground, we’re not just going to write a check. We’re going to be in this together, helping design this…” Earnhardt said. “It’s going to be an interactive experience and is going to encourage them to get in there and learn.”
Guests left the Welcome Home Luncheon happily chatting in anticipation about the upcoming pre-season game the next night, which the Redskins won against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 13-10. The regular season inaugural game kick off will be on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 1 PM when the Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles on home turf at FedExField.