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Love in the air: Redskins select former Heisman runner-up Bryce Love in the fourth round

Love in the air: Redskins select former Heisman runner-up Bryce Love in the fourth round

The Redskins selected Stanford running back Bryce Love with the 112th pick of the NFL Draft on Saturday afternoon.

Running back did not rank high among Washington’s 2019 needs, but the position unit isn’t exactly stable and the offense overall needs more playmakers. Enter Love, who had 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2017 with the Cardinal while averaging 8.1 yards per carry and scoring 19 touchdowns. He finished in Heisman Trophy voting to Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.

Here’s the rub. The 5-foot-9 back suffered a torn ACL in Stanford’s regular season finale. That makes love’s availability for 2019 unclear. Expect to hear the PUP list mentioned often in relation to his situation.

"My goal is to be ready by training camp, mid-training camp, being able to find a way to compete and do my thing," Love told local reporters during a conference call Saturday.

On the field, Love warranted first-round consideration pre-injury though his 2018 stats (739 rushing yards) were underwhelming. He said he will bring  "explosivity, versatility, being able to do a lot of different things."

As for how love fits in with what’s now a crowded backfield, consider the following:

  1. Derrius Guice is recovering from his own ACL tear
  2. Adrian Peterson is 34
  3. Chris Thompson is often injured and a 2020 free agent
  4. Samaje Perine remains unproven

Regardless of his role, Love is pumped for the next chapter.

"I obviously know it's surreal. I'm excited and I'm ready to get in there and get to work," Love said.

Love is the third offensive player selected by Washington in four picks. The Redskins added quarterback Dwayne Haskins (No. 15) and receiver added Terry McLaurin (No. 76) on Day 2 with pass rusher Montez Sweat (No. 26) in between. Washington entered Saturday with seven selections.

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Good, bad and ugly make up Redskins head coach debuts over the years

Good, bad and ugly make up Redskins head coach debuts over the years

As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. That is true in all walks of life, including the professional sports world. And while the NFL may be a “what have you done for me lately” business, it is imperative to kick off a coaching tenure on a positive note,  rather than playing from behind the entire way.

Ron Rivera is set to take over as the 30th head coach in franchise history when his squad presumably lines up against the Eagles on September 13th in Landover. With team workouts currently not an option, it is certainly too early to gauge how those two teams will match up in Week 1 - but if recent history is any indication, that debut could go either way.

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It could end up like Mike Shanahan’s primetime victory in his 2010 debut against the rival Cowboys, or like the return of Joe Gibbs back in 2004 that saw Washington outlast Tampa Bay, and even like Steve Spurrier’s high-powered win over the Cardinals in 2002 - all first impressions that the burgundy and gold promptly celebrated with a “Victory Monday” and left the fanbase hopeful for a return to glory.

But the glass could end up looking half empty as well, as it has so many times before. Jay Gruden and Jim Zorn certainly didn’t inspire confidence with their initial performances in the district. Neither did Marty Schottenheimer, who lost the opener of his only season with the Redskins. You can go all the way back to Norv Turner, who had the difficult task of following the first run of legendary Coach Gibbs with the Redskins, and he did so by falling to the Seahawks in 1994.

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What is also important to note is that the debut isn't the all-telling game for head coaches. Though it sets the tone, some have rebounded from poor starts, while others have struggled after solid beginnings. Spurrier's first win was followed by two disappointing years, while Joe Gibbs' 0-5 start in 1981 was soon forgotten when he held up the Lombardi Trophy three times.

In 2011, Rivera lost in his head coaching debut with the Panthers, but a lot has changed since then. He eventually figured things out in Carolina, amassing 76 wins over 9 successful seasons, including an appearance in Super Bowl 50. Rivera created a reputation that preceded his arrival in Ashburn, and since then it has been clear that it is a new era for the Redskins.

As for how that era begins? History tells us to buckle up.

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PLL founder Paul Rabil has plenty in common with fellow DeMatha alum and Redskins pick Chase Young

PLL founder Paul Rabil has plenty in common with fellow DeMatha alum and Redskins pick Chase Young

When the Redskins drafted Chase Young second overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, the pass rusher became the latest on a long list of alumni from DeMatha Catholic High School to become a top draft pick.

Shortly after he was drafted, the 21-year-old received a message from professional lacrosse player Paul Rabil, a fellow DeMatha alum and the founder of the Premier Lacrosse League. 

Rabil recently joined NBC Sports Washington's D.C. Sports Live crew and explained why he reached out to the top Redskins draft pick.

"Chase is great, man," Rabil explained. "I shot him a note because obviously I think he's a generational talent, his athleticism, his size and his work ethic."

Rabil, who's widely considered the best lacrosse player by many of his peers, expressed that besides the fact that he and Young both attended DeMatha, the two have a decent amount in common, including a jersey number.

"I'm pumped to see him wear No. 99," Rabil said. "We have that in common. Sharing some additional commonalities is something Chase and I went back and forth on."

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Neither Young nor Rabil sported the 99 before becoming professionals. As Rabil explained to the D.C. Sports Live crew, he simply picked 99 when turning pro because No. 9, the number he had worn his entire career prior, was already taken by a teammate.

Like Rabil, Young wore No. 9 at DeMatha before changing to No. 2 at Ohio State. With defensive ends required to wear a number between 50-79 or 90-99 in the NFL, Young picked the closest thing that resembled his high school number in 99.

Sharing a number is just one of multiple things both Rabil and Young do have a lot in common, despite being 13 years apart in age. At DeMatha, both athletes were All-Americans and top recruits in their respective sport.

As Rabil explained, the athletics culture at DeMatha is special.

"I think it's something perhaps they put in the water fountains at DeMatha," Rabil joked. "It's a great culture. It's a sports culture."

DeMatha first became a national powerhouse in basketball in the 1960s behind the late legendary coach Morgan Wootten. That strong culture has remained in the basketball program -- the school has won 41 WCAC championships since the 1960s -- but has also transferred over to all of the school's other athletic programs, too. 

"I think it comes down to a lot of the coaching and the camaraderie. I've seen it ebb and flow over time," Rabil said. "We were powerhouses in football, basketball, obviously the origin in Morgan Wootten and basketball and what we've done there. But that bleeds over into wrestling and soccer [and more]."

Rabil led DeMatha to a lacrosse WCAC championship in each of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, earning numerous honors and accolades along the way. On the football side, Young played an integral role in leading DeMatha to a WCAC title both in his junior and senior years, too.

Although it's been 16 years since Rabil was a student at the Hyattsville school, he's still just as proud to call himself a DeMatha alum.

"It's a great community to be a part of and one I'm really proud to continue to talk about," he said.

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