Jason Campbell and Miss DC
Yesterday was the last day fans and bystanders were allowed to watch the Redskins practice, so the place was filled with about 5,000 fans and dozens of team family members. Based on the level of delirium when various Redskins approached the mob of squirming fans with their footballs and jerseys and paper Chick-fil-A hats, I now rank the buzz meter thus:
1. Joe Gibbs, 2. Clinton Portis, 3. Chris Cooley, 4. Fred Smoot, 5. Santana Moss, 6. Jason Campbell, 7. Antwaan Randle El, 8. Marcus Washington, 9. Ryan Boschetti.
But those were just the players I saw. The mob scene around Portis was amazing. One kid tumbled over the wall in an effort to get an autograph. Then the crowd started chanting "POR-TIS, POR-TIS, POR-TIS," really loud. He was right in front of them. He could surely hear them. They didn't need to scream.
Portis also had a brief media session, during which he said that if Saturday's game were the start of the regular season, he would definitely play.
"I mean, my mindset cool," he said. "Football is football, man. If they put me on the field, I've got to give it what I've got. If I'm on the sideline, I'm going to give you a smile."
Which, unfortunately, is not a category in most fantasy football leagues. Speaking of fantasy, for all those who are reading the magazines telling you to draft Ladell Betts, here was Portis again, talking about Betts's opportunity this weekend:
"It's a great opportunity to see what they've got," he said of Betts and Stephon Heyer. "The best way to get off to a good start is knowing you've got capable guys on your bench, knowing you've got guys capable of coming in if anything ever happens to your main guys."
Anyhow, the mob around Jason Campbell was considerably more subdued. And behind Campbell, Miss DC Mercedes Lindsay was snapping photos on a tiny digital camera.
"I'm a big, huge fan of Jason Campbell," she explained. "Huge fan. Huge. He's my favorite player, by far."
I must have given her a confused look, because then she laughed. "Yes, that's my boyfriend," she said. "He gets mad at me, but I do a scrapbook, so that way, you know, the grandkids have something to look at."
"Grandkids?" I asked.
"I know," she said. "Got to have kids and marriage and all that stuff first."
(If you haven't already read it, my personal hero Joseph White of the AP wrote a profile of the couple last week. LaCanfora also had some nice stuff on the duo, also involving bowling. Here are more links. Here is Mercedes's Miss USA page.)
Anyhow, it was still steamy outside and most of the other players had left, and we stood and watched Campbell signing. He would finish with one clump of fans and get ready to leave, but then another clump would call out his name and he would stop again.
"He'll sit here and sign all day unless someone makes him leave," Mercedes said. "He's a good guy. He's a good guy. He still remembers being that kid who wants the autographs."
I asked about all the ribbing he's taken for his accent; she said she doesn't even notice it any more, except when he says the word "six." I asked whether he was ready for the pressure of being Mr. DC, and she said she thought so.
"I know him as goofy Jason, but he deserves it, because he's a great guy," she said. "In private he's goofy. Ask him to sing or dance." Wait, he can sing? "Yeah, that's funny," she said.
I wondered how they met; "there's two different stories," she said. "He'll tell you one, and I'll tell you the truth. He's very persistent, I'll put it that way; very persistent. Let's say he just tried for a long time to talk to me, and I was always like, 'No, no, no.' I mean, he's a nice guy, but you know? [I said] 'People don't know who you are yet, but they will in a couple years when you've got that starting job.'
"I just thought that he should go "experience" D.C., you know? I'm smart. Athletes have different stereotypes. He's not anything like the stereotype."
She said fans now show up at his house, asking for autographs, but that he still isn't acting the part of the starting QB in the football town. "Jason still doesn't realize, which is good," she said. "You know, he's very humble. He doesn't really realize that power."
[I didn't have a chance to get Campbell's version of the "how they met" story, but I did ask Mercedes exactly how many times Campbell tried to talk to her. "A lot," she said. "A lot. Probably more than most men would attempt."]
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