*The Redskins' running back reflects on his playing days at Florida State, taking over Alfred Morris' leadership role and being an inspiration for other small football players.
WR: You tweeted recently that you still get nervous on the week roster cuts are made. The experience this year must have been a little bit different for you though.
CT: Yeah, it was, it was a lot different. Even dating back to OTAs, for the first time since I've been here, I had that feeling of just a little sense of security. Which, every guy wants that at some point in his career. So I got that, and then, it was crazy, the first cut day I was on my way here for treatment and I just automatically felt a lot of butterflies and I was like, "Man, why am I so nervous?" That's when I tweeted that out, having that nervous feeling. That's just something you never forget about.
When did the butterflies finally go away?
It went away at the end of the day. On that day when we had to come back for practice is when the nerves went away.
I imagine you watched the Florida State season opener against Ole Miss. Were you sweating it out there?**
Yeah, man, that one had me a little nervous. I knew Ole Miss was a pretty good team, they had a good quarterback also. I thought we would have started out a little better but first game, every team starts out a little slow. Just being with Jimbo [Fisher], him being my head coach for the last three years, I know how he prepares guys and the things that they do in the offseason, I knew once that second half came around that they were going to get it together .
Where do you watch the games?
Usually I just watch them at home. For the most part it's Saturdays at 12. We're usually leaving to go to the hotel an hour later, so for the most part I just sit at home and watch.
Do you have chats with fellow Florida State alum Dustin Hopkins about the team from time to time?
Oh yeah, we usually have our chats about guys, even some of the new guys that are there, because I get the chance to go back home since Florida State is pretty close to where I grew up. I get to go back and talk to a lot of the guys and give D-Hop some insight on guys that I met and what I'm expecting to see from certain guys. One guy I talked to him about was [Deondre] Francois, the quarterback, and how good he looked in the spring game and he ended up showing up.
How did you like your overall experience at Florida State?
It was the best four years of my life. That's an awesome place to be, and also on the football side of it, my freshman year we finished 7-6, we barely made a bowl game to being where we are now in the program. So a lot of the guys that I came in with, we ended up building and being a part of that group that changed the culture down there. It was something I loved and that's why I never miss a game. I love Florida State so much just because of the relationships we built there and a lot of the guys that I played with, everything we went through as a football team just made us a lot closer. That's an experience we never forget.
With the No. 154 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Redskins selected Chris Thompson out of Florida State. Here's a gallery of his collegiate career.
I'm sure it must have been tough to leave that environment. How long did it take you to find a similar camaraderie here with the Redskins?**
It's different. It was hard. You have a locker room now where it's grown men now. Everybody's money is on a different level. You come in and you have to just sit back…
Players aren't thinking about essays…
Yeah…and see where you fit in. I'm a quiet guy, I kind of stay to myself so my first couple years, it was just coming in, getting to practice, doing what I got to do at practice and going home. But now, I feel more comfortable. I can see these last two years, we're starting to become a family. That's one thing, even going back to last year, the run in the second half of the season, you could see guys start to come together and the results showed. Now, we're a lot tighter group. We didn't add many guys in the offseason. We did through the draft, but not so many in the offseason, so it's the same group of core guys that had to go through that journey last year, where we've been building great team chemistry and you can see it in here. Guys are not just getting dressed and going straight home. They're playing ping-ping or on the shuffleboard, so it seems small, but it's really bringing us together as a group.
In your first and second year, Alfred Morris helped a lot with that, too, especially being another Florida guy. Is it going to be strange to see him in Cowboys colors?
Yeah, that one's going to be pretty difficult. It was tough just seeing him go. But that's the nature of the business. I've talked to him a couple of times. He's one of those guys that really taught me everything that I know now. Just the guy he is, how he carries himself. He's one of those guys that's a role model and a model for a lot of young guys. If you know Alfred, you know the type of person he is, each and every day he's the same guy. That's what I miss about him. It's going to be weird.
Might be hard to root for him like you're used to.
Yeah. It's going to be hard [laughing]. I pray for success, but just a little bit.
Just a little less against the Redskins.
Have you enjoyed taking on his leadership role in the running backs room? **
During the offseason I spent a lot of time to myself just trying to get ready mentally to take on that role. It's a pretty big role. I have a lot of young guys, Matt [Jones] with the most experience, he's only been in for a year. I have to be a mentor to those guys, I have to know the playbook inside and out because they're going to come to me and ask me questions before they go to ask the coach. That's just how it is. It's been something I have prepared myself for. Even with Pierre Thomas coming last year, just having talks with him and you can see, after playing nine years in the league how mature he is. Just learning a little bit from him and Alfred, and now I'm able to take on that role and it's transitioning pretty easily.
Is it tough to assert yourself with your height sometimes? Is that a joke people still give you?
Always, always. I don't think it's ever going to change. But at this point now I don't worry about it.
The opposite side of it is you're an inspiration to a lot of young players with your body type.
Exactly. I have it a lot where, I'll get messages on Twitter or Instagram and somebody's like, "Hey, man, you're an inspiration to me. You're not a big guy, you made it, and I feel like I can make it." When I go back home there's people wanting me to talk to their kids where they're like "I'm too small, and I won't be able to make it," and I'm like, "Man I was 165 [pounds] going into college. I ended up leaving at 185, and now I'm only 195, but you can make it no matter what size you are." It's one of those things. I really take it in, being a smaller guy. I look at Darren Sproles, he's shorter than I am.
So you still have a couple inch edge over someone in the league still.
Right [laughing], but it's pretty cool just to be an inspiration to kids.