A native of Newport News, Va., John Hastings grew up as a Redskins fan, just like a lot of kids in that area. Feisty cornerback Pat Fischer, a Redskin between 1968 and 1977 and one of the franchise's 70 Greatest, was Hastings' favorite player.
In 2002, Hastings joined the strength and conditioning staff of his favorite pro team and in the upcoming NFL season he'll have an even heightened interest in the affairs of the Redskins.
Hastings has been named head strength and conditioning coach, succeeding John "Mother" Dunn, who has left the organization to pursue other career paths.
Life has thrown Hastings some curves from which he's bounced back. Redskins players and coaches have come to draw inspiration from his story.
A little less than two years ago, in May of 2004, Hastings was suffering from a liver disease that had deteriorated to the point where he was told that he had only months remaining in his life. He told The Washington Times: "I put it all in God's hands. I just basically prayed that my family was fine."
Within weeks, Hastings received news that there had been a breakthrough in his six-year wait on the list for a liver transplant operation. The procedure was performed at the highly-regarded University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Eventually, Hastings was able to coach with the Redskins in both 2004 and last season. Dr. Paulo Fontes, co-director of the liver transplant program at the University of Pittsburgh, has called Hastings one of the most remarkable success cases among liver transplant recipients.
"When you've been through what I've been through, you're never really over the hump," Hastings says, in cautionary tones. "It's always a case of having to monitor yourself. But I can honestly say that I'm feeling really well and looking forward to next season. For us, it's just about here."
A key aspect of any NFL staff includes those coaches who are responsible for the strength and conditioning development of players. It was true last season for the Redskins in their return to the postseason and in their march to the second round of the playoffs.
"We consider ourselves as important as any coaches," Hastings says of his staff. "Our job involves pulling all the players together, for one purpose: winning.
"Fortunately, we have a lot of self-motivated guys on this team, more than any other team I've been associated with. I don't foresee any major changes in the program for 2006. Just maybe a few new wrinkles to keep things fresh."
Entering his 12th NFL campaign, Hastings is up to the challenge of helping to make sure that Redskins players are fit and focused for 2006. It's a return to form for Hastings, who directed the strength and conditioning staff of the San Diego Chargers between 1997 and 2001.
Players are expected back at Redskin Park in late March for the beginning of voluntary off-season workout sessions.
In 2006, Hastings will be working closely with holdover coach Bobby Crumpler, who enters his fourth season as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the team.
Hastings goes to great lengths to point out that team owner Daniel M. Snyder and head coach Joe Gibbs were very supportive the past two years. Further, Hastings retains his close ties and admiration for the work of Dunn, who brought him into the NFL with the Chargers in the early '90s.