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Kerrigan: Love from Washington fanbase 'made my career'

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Ryan Kerrigan was at a loss for words when he stepped through the doors at the Washington Commanders' facility.  

Kerrigan, who announced his decision to sign a one-day contract to retire with the Commanders Friday afternoon, didn't expect much when he arrived to make the deal official. At the most, he thought he would sign the paperwork, take a few pictures and leave.  

Instead, there were dozens of people, including several of his former teammates on the defensive line, waiting in the lobby to congratulate him on wrapping up an 11-year career. 

"I don't know what else to say, man," Kerrigan said. "It was so cool."

It was a fitting send-off for a player that will go down as one of the greatest players in Washington's history. His 10-year stint with Washington included 454 tackles, 147 quarterback hits, 26 forced fumbles and an official franchise-leading 95.5 sacks.

The stats aren't what Kerrigan cherishes most about his time with the Burgundy & Gold; rather, it's the fans, the unforgettable moments and the fact that he gave everything he had to Washington.

"I just want people to know that they got all of me," Kerrigan said. "I don't have anymore, physically or emotionally, to give as a player. I put my whole life into being a football player."

Kerrigan, a first-round pick by Washington in 2011, was one of the most beloved players by the fanbase from the moment he made his NFL debut, which was punctuated by a pick-six in a 28-14 victory against the New York Giants. Kerrigan gave them plenty to cheer about over the course of 141 games with the team, and he received consistent reminders of how much they appreciated him.

There is a "wow" factor that hits players when they see people filing into a stadium wearing their jersey numbers. That never got old to Kerrigan, but the fans' love for him reached a new level through them sending cards and wedding gifts when he and his wife got married.

The feeling, Kerrigan said, is something that will never settle in for him.

"They made my career fun. They made it amazing. They made my career. They made me want to be in Washington forever."

That love is why coming back to FedExField as a Philadelphia Eagle in 2021 was such a blessing to Kerrigan.

"I got to come back and play at FedExField one more time in front of fans. Even though I was in opposite collars, I still felt the love. That meant a lot to me."

There are a couple moments that stick out to Kerrigan when he thinks back on his career, and Washington fans will be happy to know that they're largely centered around the Dallas Cowboys. There was the Sunday Night Football game back in 2012 that locked up the NFC East. Another came in 2018, when he forced a fumble on Dak Prescott that was picked up by Preston Smith for a touchdown.

The other memories center around building relationships. Defensive linemen like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne have all spoken about the guidance Kerrigan provided over the years. For Kerrigan, it serves as a reminder that any impact he had wasn't just in the stat sheet.

"It really made me really happy to see guys being willing to take that from me," Kerrigan said. "Especially a guy like Daron Payne, who's so physically gifted. If I can impart anything...on him, then it's fun to watch."

Kerrigan will get the opportunity to spend time with Washington fans on Saturday when he attends the Commanders' training camp practice. And just like his former teammates, the fanbase will get to give him a proper sendoff.

"I felt at home in the DMV from day one," Kerrigan wrote to the fans in a letter announcing his retirement. "Whether it was cheering for me on game days, supporting my philanthropic endeavors or just saying "hi" at the grocery store, you made me feel like one of your own. I'm proud to call DC "home" and I'm so thankful that I was drafted here because of the way you've treated me and my family. I'll love you guys forever."

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