When actor Laz Alonso thinks about the Redskins, the first memories that spring to mind are of his childhood, watching games on the couch with his dad in Washington, D.C., where he was born and raised.
"There is no D.C experience without the Redskins being a part of it," he recalled over the phone this week.
Alonso will be making the announcement of the Redskins' fourth-round draft pick during Saturday's Draft Fest at FedExField, a pick that will be broadcast on NFL Network and begin the third day of work for the team's future. It figures to be an extremely memorable moment in his Redskins fandom history.
"The first thing I was thinking was this is a real fan's dream come true," Alonso said of getting the invitation. "To be able to participate with the team that you grew up with, loved, and announce the future of our team, because I feel like this is really a prime time in our team's destiny when you switch quarterbacks, it's a transition of leadership. This is a fresh new start, a fresh new beginning. It gives Redskins fans a time to really be optimistic and feel like we've got a new shot at this, let's hit the ground running. It's an exciting time to be a Redskins fan right now."
Alonso graduated from Howard University with a degree in business and began a career as an investment banker in New York before transitioning to Los Angeles to become an actor. He began his second career in small television roles and commercials before advancing to greater heights – taking parts in Fast & Furious, Jumping The Broom and Avatar and gaining more clout in the industry.
He remembers Doug Williams, now Senior Vice President Of Player Personnel, as a major influence as a young teenager, showing him that anyone could achieve their goals. His Super Bowl run through adversity during the 1987 season captivated him.
"Doug Williams to me represents how you can get counted out by others but if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything," Alonso said. "At that moment, he and those Redskins kind of helped save the sport. For me, I didn't study acting by its conventional forms, I'm not classically trained but I believed that I could compete with the best of them out here and I have. That's kind of what I felt Doug Williams represented with that fighting spirit, that if you believe in yourself you can achieve what you want all the way to a championship level.
"It's still alive in my memories and made me feel like I could be a champion," he added. "Seeing them out there be champions, it made me feel like I'm as much of a champion that they are. I believe that we can get back to that."
Alonso remains based in Los Angeles but the majority of his family and friends still live in the D.C. metro area. Some of his best friends are season-ticket holders and he usually finds time to make a game each year, especially if he's shooting a show or movie on the east coast.
He benefited last year when the Redskins visited the Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Besides winning the game, Alonso was thrilled to see so many Redskins fans on the west coast in one place. The sea of burgundy around the seating bowl made him realize how strong Redskins Nation is out on the opposite coast.
"We were deep," he said. "Having the Rams back in L.A. I think is a good thing for Redskins fans because we're so spread out out here that we didn't even know we had that many fans."
In his latest movie, Traffik, which stars Omar Epps and Paula Patton and is in select theaters right now, Alonso plays a sports agent and best friend to Epps. They have complicated relationship, which makes sense when you realize that Epps is actually a Cowboys fan in real life.
"We had some nice arguments and we shot that right in the heart of football season," Alonso said, "so we had some nice little debates."
In order to channel his agent, which frequently gets into arguments with his athlete clients, Alonso pretended to represent Cowboys players.
"Because anytime someone puts on the blue and white, no matter who they are, I hate them," he reasoned. "And this character has to hate his client. He sees them as spoiled brats, as spoiled babies, as troublemakers, as people who – he's just basically getting paid to keep them out of trouble, to keep them out of jail."
As for whom Alonso would like to see the Redskins take in this year's draft, the actor wouldn't name any names, but expressed his hope for a running back.
"That's where I really feel like we need to put our emphasis," Alonso said. "Some people feel like we need to focus on our secondary, other people feel offensive linemen. You always need some offensive linemen. The combination of a good running game and Alex Smith's experience, we can have a really explosive offense this year. That's what I want to see, nice, young fresh legs. We have a really good core."