Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan doesn’t like to show off.
But in 2014, Kerrigan's fourth-year in the league, former Redskins linebacker Will Compton encouraged Kerrigan to start a touchdown dance. Compton urged Kerrigan to perform WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels’ famous pose -- the HBK.
Initially, Kerrigan was hesitant. "Oh, that's kind of cool," Kerrigan admitted when Compton demonstrated the stance, "but still, not me. That's way flashy."
Compton continued to prod, and eventually Kerrigan accepted, beginning the celebration during his four-sack performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.
“After that, it just caught on like wildfire,” Kerrigan said on The Rundown podcast on June 28. “My mentions were blowing up like crazy online, and my friends were texting me saying, ‘I don’t know what the hell that was, but it was awesome man!’ I was a Shawn Michaels fan before, and it was crazy how quickly it became a thing.”
Kerrigan has performed that dance after every sack since as he’s risen the franchise’s sacks leaderboard. With 84.5 career sacks, Kerrigan is seven away from passing Dexter Manley as the team’s all-time sacks leader. He’s recorded 13.0 sacks in each of the past two seasons and has averaged more than 10 quarterback takedowns per year since entering the NFL in 2011.
Kerrigan said his preparation has changed since joining the Redskins about eight years ago. Many NFL teams have shifted toward relying on their pass game, and quarterbacks are getting the ball out of their hands quicker, so Kerrigan has adjusted to defending versatile offenses.
“You just realize that you can’t put all your eggs in the pass rush basket, but most of them," Kerrigan said. "It’s an important job to get to the quarterback and also do it quickly."
Kerrigan, who’ll turn 31 in August, is also finding new and more efficient ways to recover his body, and he's gained a new perspective for his work after the birth of his daughter, Lincoln, in March. Becoming a dad, Kerrigan said, has actually made him want to play longer.
"I want my daughter and hopefully more future children to be able to remember some aspect of my football career. I don't want them hearing me talk about football and then be like, 'Oh, dad's living in the past, like he probably wasn't even very good,'" Kerrigan joked. "I want them to be able to experience a lot of the fun that comes with being a professional football player and remember the experiences that they have."
As for this season, one in which Kerrigan could set the franchise’s sacks record, he said he’s not focused on the milestone.
“I’ll never take any sack for granted because they’re all hard to get,” Kerrigan said. “But yeah, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”