Rookie Matt Flanagan had a choice to make when he started to pursue dreams in football: attend an NFL game or eventually play in one.
The 6-foot-6 tight end spent Sundays working out for Mendham High School in New Jersey, but in order to get to the college and pro level, he knew he'd have to be dedicated focusing on his craft every day of the week.
That held true, which means Thursday, against the Patrtiots, he’ll be playing and attending his first professional game all at once.
“It’s my first NFL game that I’ve ever been to, so it’ll be pretty cool to be doing it as a player. I’m excited to strap it up and get going,” Flanagan said. “I started playing football late in life. I hadn’t really thought about [going to a game] until high school. Once you’re in football camp and everything, there’s not too many opportunities to go off when you’re older. I’m here now. I’ll eventually make it.”
After wrapping up his college career at Pittsburgh by catching 35 passes for 305 yards with three touchdowns, Flanagan was signed by the Redskins as a college free agent on May 2. Not only has the Chester, N.J., native hit the ground running at the start of offseason workouts, but he’s gotten his chance in Richmond to show how he can be a weapon in Washington’s offense.
Getting opportunities with the offense from Day 1, Flanagan's best attributes have been blocking to open up holes for the run game in addition to providing more time for the quarterback to throw. While the former lacrosse player has made his fair share of catches during the tight ends’ individual work sessions, he hasn't gotten a lot of looks when the team goes live.
Tight end Jordan Reed believes that if Flanagan can come down with more catches, then he can be dominating force in the NFL at his position.
“Matt, he’s a really good player,” Reed said. “He’s got a lot of talent. He can be a great tight end in this league and I noticed that in him. He’s a really good run blocker already and a pass blocker and he runs really good routes. He’s working on his catching every day and I tell him, ‘If you get that part down, you’ll be a great player in this league.’”
Reed and 13-year veteran Vernon Davis have taken the rookie tight end under their wing in practice, and he soaks up as much information as he can when watching the two perform. Flanagan may bring intensity on the field, but he’s calm and eager to listen whenever the two talk to him about the previous play on the sidelines.
With his ability to absorb information quickly, Flanagan has the confidence of Davis, who thinks that his skill set and work ethic will pay off into a professional career.
“First of all, he’s a great person,” Davis said. “Just awesome to be around. Not only is he an awesome person, he works extremely hard. It’s going to pay off for him. He’s still learning and he’s trying to figure things out, but he’s come a long way since he’s arrived.”
With the starting tight end group established, Flanagan plans to use the preseason games to prove how valuable he can be in other fundamentals of the game in addition to catching. He understands that the more skills he shows, the more likely the Redskins are going to keep him on the final 53-man roster.
Thursday may be his first NFL game that’s ever been a part of, but he certainly doesn’t plan on it being his last.
“Obviously the tight end position is something that can be very multiple, but at the same time, the more and more you can do, the more and more value you give them to keep you,” Flanagan said. “I think just getting out there, blocking my [butt] off and being able to prove that I’m a reliable option in the passing game and obviously making an impact on special teams. Those are the three things I think I’ll really need to focus on and be able to prove that I can do come Thursday.”