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The Redskins Have A New Quarterback With Norwegian Roots

Posted Sep 7, 2017

After being cut by the Falcons last week, quarterback Alek Torgensen received a spot on the Redskins' practice squad, where he will begin his development at the position.

After being cut by the Falcons last week, quarterback Alek Torgensen received a spot on the Redskins' practice squad, where he will begin his development at the position.

Upon his release from the Atlanta Falcons last Friday, Alek Torgersen flew to New York City with a bag packed of essentials to visit some friends. He waited for his phone to ring -- not sure if any NFL team would give him another shot -- until Sunday, when the Redskins offered the rookie quarterback a spot on their practice squad.

“I got the call to come here and I was ready to go, my bags were packed, nice easy flight from New York and it was a lot of fun,” he said after his first day of practice. “A whirlwind of emotions, the lowest low’s and the highest high’s – it’s been a crazy experience so far.”

Had that call not taken place – had the Redskins not waived quarterback Nate Sudfeld and no other teams found his talents necessary – Torgersen was ready to travel to Oslo, Norway, where his father was born, raised and now lives, coaching a women’s crew team. Now, he’ll wait to go at a later date.

Torgersen grew up in the same house in Huntington Beach, Calif., for the first 18 years of his life – his mother is from Orange County – but he has made numerous visits to Norway, where his grandmother and aunt still live as well. Despite the 12-hour flights from California, he tries to “go back as often as possible to see them, because they haven’t been around that much in my life,” said Torgersen, who has never spoken the language fluently.  

His visits provide him a unique cultural perspective that might help him as he learns to adapt to another culture in Washington. For now, he is understandably taking things “one day at a time,” as he adjusts to a new environment, learns a new playbook and gets to know his new teammates.

The University of Pennsylvania product played in the East-West Shrine game – that’s where he first caught head coach Jay Gruden’s eyes -- but didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL Combine in February. He had to rely on a body of work that he accrued over four years in Philadelphia and a Pro Day workout, throwing to receivers he hadn’t played with before. His credentials include being Penn’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (52) completion percentage (65.1) and total offense (7,937 yards), along with being a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection.

"I think at Penn he had a good career, and then I watched every throw that he had in the East-West Shrine game and I thought he had a good, quick arm and an accurate arm," Gruden said.

The Redskins had thought about bringing him in after the draft, but were hesitant about having four quarterbacks on the roster. Instead, the Falcons gave him a chance, signing him as a college free agent, but with Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub (just recently signing a contract extension) ahead of him, his only opportunity was to impress coaches enough so they might consider a third spot on the quarterback depth chart.

In three preseason games, Torgersen was afforded just 20 pass attempts, completing eight of them for 95 yards with two interceptions. With little opportunity to find a rhythm, his introduction to the NFL has been turbulent, and even Torgersen said that “there’s a lot of mystery about me right now.”

“Coming from college to the pros, it’s a big jump,” Torgersen said. “You’re going to take a big leap right away. I felt like I made a very large leap in my game, I got a lot better, but I need to push myself a little more to get a little more better. Initially it’s going to be big and these next steps are going to be smaller, so you’ve got to look at that and find what you’re doing well and remember that you are doing better.”

Torgersen’s biggest goals are to work on the mental aspects of his game, namely making better and faster reads and increasing his foot speed, but he believes he has the talent to play in the league. The adjustments will happen through osmosis – experiencing an entire season with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy, asking for help and knowing that his development won’t be rushed.

“I asked him today, I said, ‘Is your head spinning, or how do you feel?’ He’s handling it well,” Cousins said. “It is a lot to pick up. He does a good job of understanding a lot of the big terms and techniques, he really has picked it up quickly. The challenge is in all the little nuances. That takes…sometimes years.”

Cousins even said he’s been picking Torgerson’s brain a little bit about Atlanta’s offensive schemes and is “enjoying meeting new people, collecting new people to be able to have those relationships and hear their story and learn from them.”

“[Kirk’s] generally taken an interest in my life, wanted to get to know me,” Torgersen said. “So, I look forward to getting to know him a little better in these next couple months and just happy to be here.”

Because of this new job, he’ll postpone that trip to see his father -- a former crew star himself, coaching at his former club in Oslo -- at least until the offseason. Torgersen said he’s not sure if he could handle crew himself, but had considered taking it up if football didn’t pan out after high school.

So far, football has panned out. Enough to give him another chance in the NFL.

“It’s going to take a little time, a little bit of an adjustment period for me but I’m ready to take on the challenge,” Torgersen said. “It’s a lot fun to learn a new offense, learn a new system and meet some new guys.”

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