If there was one takeaway from Saturday's Preakness Stakes, it's that wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. knows how to walk a red carpet.
In this case, the carpet was black, and he didn't really need to walk so much as just pose for a couple of cameras as he mugged with his girlfriend, Chania Ray, and a couple others. The ease with which he pulls off a navy blue shirt and pant combination, a light blue blazer, sunglasses, hat and pocket square, and then very consciously unfastens the top three buttons to expose his tattoos is something few can aspire to.
Oh yeah, plus a smile that says, "Yeah, I got this."
He also knows how to answer a question. In the midst of rubbing shoulders with big-wigs and celebrities, and even football peers and coaches, when asked who the coolest person he had spoken to during the overcast afternoon was, he responds with a look to his right.
"My lady," he says, smiling at Ray.
This is not an article dedicated to the strengths of Terrelle Pryor's off the field persona and sense of fashion, but it certainly could be. Focusing on that entirely, however, would be to dismiss the several other Redskins players that made their way to The Stronach Group's Owner's Chalet, which is a fancy way of saying "Best Tent at The Preakness."
Why best? Free food and drink goes a long way in making up that descriptor. The view also helps, right by the finish line of the track and beside the winner's podium. An outdoor lawn with bartenders and couches met a windowed lounge area, which led to the tent, where tables and couches made up private reserved group seating. Sit where you are unauthorized and you will be told to move.
There was a major horse race on Saturday, too (the second leg of the Triple Crown major) and plenty of other smaller ones before that, but that all generally felt secondary. For the majority of people enjoying Black Eyed Susans in pastel dresses and suits, horse racing is an excuse to engage in these types of mixers, to network with people and dress up in outfits they may never wear again.
When else is cornerback Bashaud Breeland going to wear a top hat? This was his second consecutive Preakness Stakes, so he knew his way around the party, meeting just about everyone in his path, introducing cornerback Kendall Fuller to his new friends.
One person he met, wearing a grimace throughout the few moments he roamed the grounds with his wife, was New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, donning a light blue blazer as he gave facetime to a few high rollers. Including Breeland.
"I got to meet Bill Belichick personally," Breeland said, about to move on before I pressed about his interaction. A friend introduced him. "It was shocking. Almost intimidating. I just shook his hand and told him I was a fan. Other than that it was just intimidating. He doesn't smile at all."
That might have been the only time Breeland didn't feel comfortable. Like his teammate tight end Vernon Davis, who wore a navy suit and walked around with defensive lineman A.J Francis, Breeland has taken tips when it comes to his people skills and making potential business connections (no word on if he promoted his new rap stylings just yet).
"I've seen a lot of people I met last year," he said. "It was a pretty good time seeing them again. Last year I didn't know too much about it, but I learned more about it."
That seemed to rub off on Fuller, who opted for no blazer, and wandered around more of the infield next door at the Under Armor tent.
"I like that you never know who you're talking to," Fuller said. "You could meet the CEO of companies, you could meet anybody. I walk by the Under Armor tent to see athletes, stuff like that."
This was Fuller's first time at Pimlico, a surprise considering he grew up not too far away.
"[The biggest takeaway] is the fact that I took so long to come," Fuller said. "I only live like 20 minutes away. The fact that this is my first time coming -- now I get the full experience."
I should also mention that safety D.J. Swearinger was in attendance with his sister, and longsnapper Nick Sundberg, a regular at this event, brought his wife. Sundberg wore a pink blazer with horses dotted on it while Swearinger wore some pink too, but opted for a darker color scheme, rocking a hat and glasses.
Kevin Spacey was part of the party, too. He mostly lingered in a closed off section reserved for really cool people, I'm only presuming. Occasionally he came to the edge of the roping and some people wandered up to snag a photo with him. Sundberg gave it a try but Spacey wasn't keen on taking more than just a couple selfies.
By race time, it's possible to sneak right up to railing at the finish line – though a guard makes it clear he doesn't want anyone leaning on it. Once the horses race by, it's nearly impossible to tell who's winning if you're not tall enough to see part of the video board directly behind you. People are yelling that Classic Empire, the horse Breeland has picked earlier to win, he tells me, takes a commanding lead.
The lead narrows down the final stretch until it changes completely. Cloud Computing edges out Classic Empire and the crowd doesn't seem thrilled. Thus commences the exiting, which only happens slightly at the Chalet because of a promised after party until 11 p.m. that is run by a D.J. in a pink jacket, sunglasses and a white top hat that could have easily been Macklemore.
Pryor opts to leave. It is a bit tiring standing all day – there are plenty of couches but they were rarely left vacant – and he takes his crew home. The Redskins host a golf tournament Monday and then commence OTAs this week. Back to the football grind for about a month. This day will be one of the the lasting memories of an eventful offseason for Pryor, who has switched cities and begun to adapt to his new surroundings.
Part of that means going to things like The Preakness, to hobnob with the locals, put on a good face for the camera (easy) and learn more about, well, horse racing. I asked him about his day before the race began, and he seemed to be in a state of pure contentment.
"It's a great experience. It's different," Pryor said. "I'm having a good time with my lady. I'm having a good time with my manager. Enjoying life."
If only it were that easy all the time. And yet Pryor makes it pretty easy to believe it is.