The Redskins introduced their first two draft picks – Alabama defensive lineman Daron Payne and LSU running back Derrius Guice – to fans during the team's Draft Fest on Saturday at FedExField.*
Maybe it was a sign of things to come. Alabama defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne and LSU running Derrius Guice visited the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park together in mid-April, and both came away with the same feeling. The Redskins felt like family.
"Everybody just wants to help you out and just make sure [they] get you to be the best person you can be," said Payne of his visiting experience.
Just a couple weeks later, Payne would join that family with Guice by his side once again, this time inside the FedExField interview room, holding up Redskins jerseys, donning similar polos and hats and smiling widely as the team introduced them to the media and fans in person for the first time on Saturday.
"We both didn't expect to be here a few weeks ago and be here at the same time now," Guice said. "Both getting drafted here, it's just a miracle."
Payne – the team's first-round selection – and Guice – the team's second-round pick – have a good history battling each other as members of Alabama and LSU. Now, the will strangely become teammates after years seeing each other as SEC rivals, which is to say they both know how good the other is.
"You face a team like Alabama once, twice a year, you know, and just knowing that I've got to prepare for the next level going against a team like that, where you are going against guys like that in the NFL every week," Guice said. "So, I'm more than prepared from playing in the SEC conference and it's going to be something to watch this year."
"Playing against him, it's like you just know what's going to happen," Payne said. "They are going to run the ball at you and it's going to be a battle in the trenches. And I think we always get pumped up for those type of games because we tried to pride ourselves on stopping the run, but they've got a good group of guys over there so we did what we had to do."
Payne's selection, with the No. 13-overall pick, filled a need along the defensive line and will help greatly a defense that ranked last against the run last season. Payne said he doesn't feel any pressure in carrying some of the burden to improve that statistic, mostly because that's been his responsibility for his entire career.
"I stop the run for a living, so I think that's going to be something easy," Payne said. "We are just going to get to it and I'm just happy to put that hat on and go to work. So it's going to be fun."
Check out these photos of the Washington Redskins Draft Fest Presented By Pepsi on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at FedExField in Landover, Md.
Guice had to wait a little longer than Payne to be drafted. A projected first-round selection, Guice wasn't taken until late in the second round, when the Redskins took their shot after trading back with the San Francisco 49ers. Despite the longer wait time, Guice was thrilled to join Washington.
He'll take on the similar burden of improving the Redskins' run game, which hasn't had a premiere and consistent running back in a while. When asked if there might be any pressure associated with the position, Guice just shook his head with a smile.
"I think I'm more than prepared to run against, you know, tough guys like this one [nodding at Payne]," Guice said. "I've played against him in college as well. You know, at LSU, we run the ball a lot, so, you know, I'm all about carrying the load and getting a lot of touches and getting a lot of yards and touchdowns. So that's going to be something I'm looking forward to."
Guice, who has been compared, and compared himself, to Marshawn Lunch, said the Oakland Raiders running back has given him advice and his apparel company Beast Mode reached out to him with gear, and the two have been "kicking it ever since."
"Everything will play out how it should," Guice said Lynch told him. "Just trust the process and always have faith to keep God first. Everything is always going to fall into place at the end. When your time comes, be ready to ball out."
It's fair to say that both are ready to do just that. Before departing the stadium and reconvening with family and friends, Payne and Guice stood on stage outside and spoke to the fans about their excitement to begin their careers in burgundy and gold. They met some of their new teammates in person there, too, commencing their swift transition into the professional level.
"Anytime somebody gets drafted, you know, it's a clean slate," Guice said. "You're going from college to a whole 'nother level. You're going to the highest level of this whole business. Once you get here, you know you're representing the organization, you're representing yourself, you're representing your family. Everything behind me is behind me. This is a fresh, clean slate and I'm just ready to get to work."