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Fans Flock To Redskins Park For Inaugural 'Fan Day'

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If you happened to be searching for a friend or relative Sunday afternoon at Redskins Park, the kaleidoscope of fans wearing burgundy and gold would have presented some challenges -- unless, of course, Dareyl Plue was your father.

Partly because his Fuzzy-Wuzzy outfit is in bright red (it was the closest Party City had to burgundy), and because the fuzz functions as both a Mohawk and leg warmers, Plue was one of the more noticeable in attendance Sunday for Redskins Fan Day, presented by the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.

"Hopefully players see it [and] get excited about it, that a fan will come here and get all hot and sweaty just to cheer them on, even if it is just practice," Plue, a lifelong fan, said.

He was one of many to arrive early, lining up by the gate at Redskins Park several hours before team practices began, eager to get a good seat by the fields before some pre-practice performances and traditions took place.

Fans settled into their lawn chairs and listened to music while kids threw the football around and ate lunch in the open spaces. Soon the Washington Redskins Marching Band belted out some brass hits of popular tunes and the First Ladies of Football entertained a few dance numbers.

Like a week earlier at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va., a touchdown celebration competition took place, embarrassing some, making others crowd favorites.

"I just wanted the experience of being around all of these Redskins fans to watch [the team] train to get ready for the season," said Maggie of Upper Marlboro, Md.

For Bill Taylor, of Manassas, with his daughter and grandchildren, he enjoyed the event "just so they can see the experience and know the players and get autographs. I like kids to get early at it."

Taylor, a fan since the Redskins played in their first Super Bowl against the Dolphins, remembers a special visit Charley Taylor and Roy Jefferson and a few others gave his community center, offering to play scrimmage basketball with him.

"I did ok," he remembered of the game.

But there were fledgling fans, too, some still learning the intricacies of the game, such as Honore, who came to Washington, D.C., from Cameroon in 2008 and has just recently become a Redskins fan.

"When we came here, the first year, I didn't know the rules, but we liked sports," he said. "But American sports, you don't know until you come here. Then I started talking with friends and coworkers and then I said I need to go and check the rules."

He listened to local sports call-in shows, began watching sports cable channels and immersed himself into the game. Even on a hot day, with three of his friends also from the country with him, he wore his Redskins beanie, all smiles as he prepared to take in practice.

Prior to the team entering the field, Ashburn Supervisor Ralph Buona spoke to the crowd, excited to host the Redskins in his district and thanking the fans for their attendance.

"The board of supervisors put together a marketing agreement with the Redskins a few years ago and it's been a win-win for the county and for the Redskins. We've brought seven hundred million dollars as a result of it. We're continuing that relationship for years to come."

As the team took the field, head coach Jay Gruden took the microphone to echo Buona.

"I want to say thank you guys for coming out," head coach Jay Gruden said. "We're going to have a great practice today. We're off to a good start, we're getting better every day. We appreciate you coming. Thank you very much."

One lesson from Sunday is that not everyone can compete with Plue, in outfit or promptness. The other is that some fans are just happy to see a team they never have before.

Honore and his friends were able to come thanks to his coworker, a big Redskins fan that had four passes to give away.

"We're trying to definitely be real fans," he said.

They're off to a good start.




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