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Redskins 'Draft' Local Make A Wish Child

Posted Jun 11, 2013

Redskins HC Mike Shanahan and the Redskins Charitable Foundation made the call to draft a local Redskins fan to be part of the team for the day, making a Make A Wish dream come true.

The draft day phone call from a team's head coach to an NFL prospect is perhaps the most important phone call in a player's life.

It's the payoff for years of struggle and sacrifice to reach a point where their NFL dreams finally come true.

And that's exactly the type of experience the Make A Wish Foundation and Redskins Charitable Foundation recreated for one local fan who is battling a life-threatening illness and wanted to be a part of the Washington Redskins.

Last Thursday, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan made a call to his house to let him know that he was being drafted as part of the Washington Redskins.

His instruction: please report to the facilities on Tuesday morning to join the team for practice.

[Editor's Note: the boy's name identity and story will be fully released with ESPN's eighth annual Make A Wish series, beginning on August 18, 2013.]

The young man and his family appeared at Redskins Park early this morning and were given the star player treatment: a limo ride to the front door of Redskins Park and a gauntlet of Washington Redskins Cheerleaders welcoming him to the franchise.

Passing through the lobby, he met some of his teammates who were out of morning meetings and getting ready for minicamp practice.

He got a round of applause from teammates as he walked in, proudly wearing his Redskins' No. 1 jersey and slapping high-fives with nearby players.

After having a look at the three Lombardi Trophies on display in the lobby, he walked back to head coach Mike Shanahan's office where the two shook hands and went over the playbook.

The young man told his head coach that he was a running back in his local football league but he wasn't too keen on blocking. Like most stars coming out of the amateur ranks, he is accustomed to making plays, not necessarily the dirty work in pass protection.

Shanahan agreed to grant him an exemption, just this once.

After reviewing film of the last practice, head coach and player walked to general manager Bruce Allen's office, where Allen presented him with a one-day contract to sign.

His salary demands? Unlimited candy from Bruce Allen's private supply.

From there, Senior Vice President of Communications Tony Wyllie took the draft pick to a press conference, where the local media grilled him on such topics as his favorite pregame meal and teammate.

Then the fun began.

He was escorted out to minicamp practice by the team's last first-round draft pick, quarterback Robert Griffin III. The two warmed up together before the rest of the team took the field.

“His wish was to come out and spend a day with us. I felt blessed enough that he chose me to be the guy he came out to practice with and hung out with," Griffin III told the media after practice. "He is actually a pretty good athlete. I was playing with him a lot during the beginning of practice, while everyone was doing the walkthrough."

The Make A Wish Foundation was created to provide children with life-threatening illnesses an opportunity for a life-changing experience.

As noted in the foundation's mission statement, the wish frequently touches more than the child who dreams it, and often impacts those who facilitate the experience.

"I don’t have any kids but a lot of the coaches do and they say whenever you have a kid you get more sensitive to things that happen with little children," Griffin III said. "It’s sad to see what he’s going through but we’re glad that we could make his day.

"It was just an honor to meet him and just be able to be around him."

At the end of practice, the team broke the huddle to run one more play: a handoff to the draft pick, who rumbled through the line toward the end zone.

As he got close, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall dove in a last-ditch effort to prevent the touchdown, but it was no use. Touchdown, draft pick, and a very special wish granted.

"I told myself, ‘I’m not going to dive and try to get him,’" Hall told the media after practice. "But as soon as he took off, I said, ‘What? This kid’s fast!’ so I had to try and catch him and live it up a little.

"Any time you can help a kid out like that in his situation, especially with his family, it's amazing. As a professional athlete, any time you can help other people out, it’s amazing."

Fellow defender Brian Orakpo chuckled about the play, saying that everyone underestimated the young man's speed.

"Oh man that guy is fast. Seriously, I’m not just saying it," he said. "That kid's got speed, man. He made all of us miss, obviously, and he’s going to be special."

Head coach Mike Shanahan capped off the day, telling the media the running back competition may have added a new face to the mix.

"He was pretty quick, too," he said with a smile. "I asked Bruce [Allen] if he signed him to a two-year contract instead of a one because he was pretty impressive in there. We do a good job evaluating running backs and he did a great job today.

“It was great. I got a chance to spend a little time with him. He was excited today. I got a chance to meet him. You can tell he was really, really excited to be around Robert [Griffin III] and a bunch of the players."

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