Newly acquired safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s emotions during his first day as a Washington Redskin can be summed up into one word: ecstatic.
Clinton-Dix took the podium on Wednesday to talk for the first time since being traded from the Green Bay Packers less than 24 hours prior, and used the phrases “I’m happy” or “I’m excited” 12 times to express his feelings of the sudden change.
“I’m ready to play ball. I’m so excited to be here,” Clinton-Dix said. “You guys don’t even understand, you’ll see.”
To Clinton-Dix, there’s plenty of reasons for him to be intrigued by the opportunity he now has with the Redskins.The first, an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his favorite player: Sean Taylor. Long before Clinton-Dix would first dawn the burgundy and gold on Wednesday, his admiration for the fellow safety and Redskins legend had been well known.
In 2014, during an interview with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, where he was asked what three people he would want to have dinner with, the former Packer named Taylor as his first, and said he didn’t even have any others.
“He was my inspiration. I looked up to him. I idolized him. He's a heck of a player. Man, he was a beast. I liked him a lot,” Clinton-Dix said. “To see him pass at such a young age, it was sad to me like he was my brother or something. And I didn't even know him.”
The 2016 second-team All Pro member, who wore the number 21 in Green Bay as a tribute to Taylor, has continued to speak highly of him, even telling ESPN that the last thing he does before heading out onto the field is watch highlights of Taylor. On Wednesday, his praise for Taylor continued, reflecting on what it meant to play for the same team as Taylor did.
“He’s one of the best in the game. He’s one of the best to ever play this game, and that’s not just for the money, but because of the love for the game. He was leader, he didn’t talk much but he led by example. He set great examples,” Clinton-Dix said. “So that’s someone you want to admire, someone you want to look up to and someone you want to feed off of. There’s no way that I can be Sean Taylor, but he’s a guy that I look up to and I model my game after him.”
In addition to his connection to Taylor, Clinton-Dix’s excitement also stems from his new opportunity to play home games at FedExField. A place that he said made him light up every time he came as a visitor or opponent, Clinton-Dix is eager to share gamedays with everyone in Redskins nation.
“Every time I came here I felt like I was at home. From the crowd, from the stands, from the fans. Even to the band. I love the band,” Clinton-Dix said. “Their locker room was right across the hall from ours every time we played here in away games. I always stuck my head in and told them thank you and how much I appreciated them. Just coming back here now and being a part of it really means a lot to me.”
To take his joy of joining the Redskins over the top, Clinton-Dix now becomes teammates with his friend D.J. Swearinger Sr. Clinton-Dix and Swearinger Sr. have become closer in recent seasons, even working out together in the offseason and sharing a high-five when Clinton-Dix had an interception against the Redskins earlier this year. Though their lockers weren't next to each other on Wednesday, it won’t stay like that for long.
“Oh no, he’s going to be right here man. He’s going to be right next to me,” Swearinger Sr. said. “They had to ask me that I want to give up my locker. I said it’s cool, got to keep the safeties in the same sequence.”
Wednesday, Clinton-Dix has his locker placed next to some other familiar faces, players from his alma-mater Alabama. Just the latest of ‘Bama boys to become a Redskin, he even ended his press conference with a “Roll Tide.”
Though Clinton-Dix spent his first hours as Redskin expressing his elation, he also made it clear how determined he was to get to work. Using the phrase, “I’m ready” six times during his presser, the newest member of the secondary made it clear that he was here to make an instant impact. To him, that meant being ready to play this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
“I came here to play, I came here to work,” Clinton-Dix said. “Even if that’s on special teams or just helping contribute to this team anyway I can, then number 20 is going to be suited up this weekend, and you can bet that.”