Prior to the Redskins’ third preseason game against the Bills, as players headed back into the tunnel before their introductions, wide receiver T.J. Thorpe jogged over to the edge of the stands to greet his girlfriend, Kayla Cason, and partake in a tradition that started his senior year at the University of Virginia.
He gave her a quick peck, took a few steps towards the field, then paused and extended his hand back towards her for a choreographed handshake, which ended with a salute to each other.
Unlike previous times, however, somebody was filming this interaction, quickly posted it to Twitter and watched Thorpe and Cason’s romantic transaction go viral – some 44,000 retweets and counting viral.
“Washington rookie T.J. Thorpe and his significant other are the new power couple of the NFL,” wrote SB Nation.
“He gives his girlfriend a kiss and then they end it with an epic handshake,” wrote Total Sports Online, in typical aggregative exaggeration.
Thorpe was, let’s just say, surprised when he found out about his six seconds of fame.
“For me it’s something that’s just regular, since I care about her,” Thorpe said. “For it to do what it did, I was like, ‘We can’t be the only people in the world with a handshake.’”
He received numerous texts and calls on his phone, and plenty of ribbing from teammates and coaches. One coach, he said Monday, came up to him during the morning’s walkthrough and asked him for a handshake.
Defensive end Chris Baker tried to repeat the handshake and salute as soon as he found out about the undrafted rookie’s video.
The tradition actually started during a game of corn hole. Thorpe said he and Cason, who he began dating almost three years ago, were partners and “every time we would get a point or win something, we just wanted something cool to do.” A ritual was born.
The two met while Thorpe played football at North Carolina. Cason, a Virginia Beach native, played volleyball at Norfolk State but moved to a community college in Charlottesville, Va., to be closer to Thorpe when he transferred to Virginia for his senior season.
That devotion is evident by the fact that she attends almost every game in which Thorpe has played. She’ll make the four hour drive up to games at FedExField and buy plane tickets when Thorpe and the team go on the road.
“I look around and see where she is [in the stadium], but just having that support there, because my parents are working and my sisters are working and they can’t always get to the game,” Thorpe said.
Cason will head back to school at Old Dominion this year, where she is also pursuing a modeling career.
“It’s good,” Thorpe said of his random fame. “And she definitely loves it because she’s trying to do modeling, so all that publicity is good.”