The Redskins' inside linebacker signed with team near the beginning of the 2015 season and has since played a big role on the defense. He discusses his Bye Week activities, how he's stayed positive through adversity and his experience living on the west coast. *
How did you spend your Bye Week?
I spent the Bye Week playing Crash Bandicoot, Mario Kart and just getting treatment. I didn't really do anything. Just tried to heal up, came in here every morning for treatment. My son got good grades, he got a good report, so I went and bought him a Nintendo Switch and they got the Mario Kart with the steering wheels. We went crazy, spent the whole week playing it -- treatment and Mario Kart.
Did you play it a lot by yourself or with your son?
A little bit of both. I didn't think the Nintendo Switch was going to be that cool, but when I got it for him it was off the hook. Then the Crash Bandicoot is for the PS4, and he's really good. Some of the levels are really hard so I have to pass him during the daytime. I don't want him to see me die over and over. I just try to pass him when he's at school.
How old are your two boys?
Rylan is four and a half and Kannon will be three in December.
I saw you took Rylan to swim lessons over the weekend.
[Lessons are] usually on Thursdays. I used to be able to go after practice and stuff. Now it's Saturday, so I can't make it. It's cool. They graduated their little classes, they're swimming pretty good now, so it's pretty crazy to see little kids swim like that.
What prompted you to get them into swim class?
When we were in Tampa, we had a pool when Rylan was born and he just loves water. So he's been doing swim lessons since he was eight to 10 months old. They have a lot of swim classes in South Tampa, so he's been learning to swim for a while. And both my boys are like that, so we had to get them swim lessons as soon as possible because they'll jump right in.
Did you learn to swim growing up?
Yeah, my mom is a really good swimmer. But I didn't really learn how to swim until I was seven years old. I would just stay in the shallow end of the pool. But my mom taught me -- we went to Hawaii one time -- in two days. It was pretty crazy.
Did you see any movies over the break?
I saw the new Blade Runner.
How'd you like it?
It was good. It was long. I was thinking I would just pop into it after treatment, but it was like three hours. It was really good. I've got to see *Kingsman. *I've been slipping, but *Blade Runner, *sci-fi, that's my kind of stuff.
Eventually you can take your kids to that movie, but not right now.
Not right now, they're straight. "Teen Titans," that's all they want to watch.
That sounds like a fitting title for what they'll become.
Yeah, they're going to be superheroes or something. Astronauts. One of the two.
On a separate topic, I still can't imagine what it's like to play with a shoulder that's been dislocated. How would you describe it?
It's a little weird. It's definitely painful and you feel restricted. But for the most part, it's just about pain. Your shoulder is already kind of messed up, so if you can deal with the pain it's whatever. The pain, it's bad, but it's a part of football. As long as I can play to the level I feel I can play to help the team win, then I was alright. I just love playing football, I wouldn't want to miss any of that. As long as it stays locked down and doesn't pop out again, I'm alright.
Do you feel off-balance or off-kilter?
Maybe before with my other one, my left was a little weird. But here we have great athletic trainers, great doctors and equipment people. They way they've got it locked down and set up and all the rehab I do makes it feel great. It gets beat up but they're able to bring me back the next day and I'm ready to go again.
Where does the interception you had against Jared Goff rank amongst plays you've made with the Redskins? **
Oh that's number one definitely. Last year I didn't really get to play too much on third down or be on two-minute drives. I feel like you make those kinds of splash plays, it's something I really always wanted to do ever since college, try to make interceptions and sacks, big plays that end the game. It was good to get one as a Redskin especially in the Coliseum. It's something you'll never forget.
I remember earlier this offseason when you told me that your only concern was winning, regardless of your role. Were you unsure about how much you were going to play or what your role would be this season?
I kind of had a feeling that I was going to get a chance to play. It was really just talking about special teams, whatever they need me to do. I know that no matter who they bring in, no matter who comes, at the end of the day it's all competition. So I knew if it was competing against Zach[Brown], [Will Compton], [Martrell] Spaight, whoever, I knew it was going to be a competition. I was going to give them my best. I know they're going to give me their best. At the end of the day, it was about winning. If I'm giving my best every day and you can beat me out, then you deserved it, and we're going to be alright. That's all it was about. It's still the same way. Even after the Bye Week, all you want to do is win, no matter what you got to do.
You had also mentioned that joining the Redskins made you fall in love with football again. Has that love continued to grow this season?
Definitely. You spend four years in Tampa. You go to the Bears and get cut. I've never been a quitter and always seen it through to the end, but that was like probably the first time in my life where I was probably thinking like, I can go do something else.
How deep did those thoughts go?
I got cut the last day of camp, then probably the next couple of days, I had my cousins with me in Chicago, and I really was just talking to everybody. My best friend from college and my frat brother, a strength coach at South Dakota, he was like, "Bruh, don't let that stuff get you down. Come here, you can sleep on my couch, we'll train," and it worked out. But that was really it, those 48 hours where I was just thinking I'll go back to school, I'm going to go coach, I'm going to help [University of Washington]. That's not where my mind should have been at, but that's why you have a good circle of friends. Your family is there for you all of the time. Once I came here, Jay and [linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti] and all the fellas in the locker room, it just made me feel like I love football again. Even if I wasn't starting, because I started my whole life, but it was just being on a team where people cared about you, coaches are having fun, everybody's playing hard. I gravitated towards that. It made me want to stay here and continue to help this team win.
Looking back, did it seem silly to have that anxiety?
Yeah I mean it definitely did, because I've never been that type of person, but you kind of felt like some of the stuff that happened in Chicago was a little weird the way the situation played out. It's a business and you've just got to keep trucking. That was one of the big moments in my career. I can't believe I thought for a second that I was done or washed up. I still feel like I can play. All of my friends, my mom, my dad, everybody close to me was like, "Bro, just go train, trust me," and it really helped me out. Now I know: I can do whatever I put my mind to.
Will Compton reads a lot on psychology and mental training. Have you always felt like you've been in a positive mental space, too?
I've always been super optimistic. See the good in people. Stay positive.
How tough is that to do?**
It's pretty tough. Especially when you get in those situations like in Chicago. That was probably the only time ever. Even when I was in Tampa, we were 2-14. I went into every game and thought we were going to beat them by 21 points. That's just how I feel. I believe in everyone in this organization wholeheartedly. They're the best that do their job. When I went into that dark – thinking maybe I'm not as good as I think, maybe this isn't for me – that was tough because that was the first time I ever really felt like that. I had never felt negative about a situation that bad where I wanted to give up. It changed a lot of stuff for me. I started reading more books.
What did you read?
I read the book "The Art of Mental Training," which was a good way to get your mind on how to eliminate bad thoughts and carry yourself like a champion, envision yourself doing this and that. That helped me a lot. The main thing: I'm Omega Psi Phi fraternity, so both of my line brothers were really on me about "You can't let this stuff break you, you've got to keep pushing. See it through." It's really what got me through all of that. You'll look at yourself in the mirror and know that you gave it your all.
You reached out to someone on Twitter and gave him tickets in exchange for community service. Has social media been your way to stay positive?
Definitely. It's little way to try and get people to pay it forward. I always do that for kids who need tickets or something. Just do something nice. When you're a good person, good things happen to you. That's how my dad raised me. You're a good person, good stuff will happen to you sooner or later. It's something little but you see it, it helps them out a lot. I didn't even think about how much it would – just pay it forward. You be the first one to help them move, or hold the door for somebody, if people start doing little stuff like that, that's the start. That's just the tip of the sword. It just gets deeper. You can get people to be good people to everybody, then you never know what can happen.
Has it been easier to try since there's been a lot of negativity surrounding players over the last month?
It's always crazy, because most of the guys that I know and I interact with every single day are great guys. The best dads I know, the best husbands I know, the best brothers I know, so it's crazy that people see NFL players in this crazy light. It's part of the game. You play a violent sport. Sometimes you're going to get viewed that way. But I think the stuff people are doing in the community, the stuff people do outside of football, shows what type of people all these guys are. It would be easy just to sit at home and not do anything and turn a blind eye to it. I feel like a lot of guys are standing up, reaching out into the community and helping out behind closed doors, not doing it for any certain reason but to help someone out. I think that means a lot to a lot of NFL players.
You're a laid-back guy, too. Does that stem from growing up on the west coast?
Definitely. It's probably just from my grandpa. My whole family is like that, laid-back. Of course they're going to be tough on you, tough love if you need it, and I was one of those hard-headed kids that needed it.
What was your grandpa like?
He was real cool. We had "Grandpa Thursdays." This was my dad's dad. Every Thursday night he would invite everybody over, all the grandkids and the cousins. He'd cook us all a bunch of food for us to hang out together. I feel like he was always helping people out in our neighborhood no matter what. My granny, my mom's parents, lived four houses down. So we would just bounce around. I spent a lot of time with them, my mom and dad both worked, so my grandpa would pick us up on Fridays. Me and my friends, it didn't matter who I would be with, we'd go bowling. It pretty much came from that, just being a cool person, everybody loved my grandpa because of that. It was like, I could be that, too, help people out, smile, listen to people when they need to talk to you. It goes a long way for people.
And living in Seaside, Calif., and then Seattle, those are pretty diverse areas.
That's one of the reasons why I fell in in love with Seattle. You get the same vibes. San Francisco, Bay Area, Northern California, people just chilling. Nobody's really judging each other, people are just chilling. It's pretty cool, and it's something that I just gravitated towards. I'm glad I made that decision. I wanted to go experience new places.
You've lived in the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast and the Northeast now. Do you feel fortunate about living in nearly every time zone and region?
I love it. You never really know how people are. Where I grew up, there's all different types of people --Filipinos, Guatemalans, Polynesians, Samoans, so it's cool to go to other places and see that everybody's the same, but everybody's different. It's cool to see everyone's variations. I love it. A lot of people don't get that experience. It's cool to meet kids in D.C., go to the middle schools in Tampa and play basketball with the little kids.
Which coast has the better food?
I would say the west coast. We just got a certain mix. When I was in high school, we had "Aloha Rallies" and multi-cultural lunches. Every culture brought its own food. You could just bounce around. It was pretty much people's parents and grandparents cooking. Definitely get some egg rolls, fried rice. I think the west coast just because they have a lot of variety.
The weather is also so drastically different. I can't imagine living in Tampa.
It doesn't rain as long per day. Seattle, it's just those gray, gloomy skies all day. Tampa it would rain hard for 10 minutes, but then it's going to be back to sunny and hot. Then the alligators. Being in Seattle, and then going all the way down to Tampa, it was the lockout, so I didn't really get to Tampa until camp. It was hot. There was a bunch of bugs, but it just makes you grow up as a person. Learn on the run.
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Mason Foster's 2017 Redskins Photo Shoot
What does the next three quarters of the season look like for you and the team?**
I think it's just a continuous climb. I think guys know where we're at. We just want to keep getting better, everybody wants to keep getting better. You take the Bye Week to really identify, look in the mirror, see what you did. I re-watched all the games, see where I can get better. Just keep getting better, one, two, three, each day is a new day. I think people see the potential that we have as a team. Now it's about making it go happen. Nobody likes that shoulda, coulda, woulda stuff.
What was your favorite tackle so far?
It was probably one of those on Monday night. Coming off a shoulder [injury], people never know, is he going to be…? My first play I hit the running back and I was like, "I'm alright." So that was a good feeling for me, like, to really hit somebody. It's definitely one I'll remember.
Is there a certain feeling you have when you know you've made a good tackle?
It's like hitting the baseball on the sweet spot of the bat. You can't even feel it but you know you hit it just right, hard enough. A good tackle, you bring your feet, arms, he goes backwards. It's a great feeling. There ain't nothing like it.
I asked Ryan Kerrigan this question and he had a good response. What's the strangest thing you've received unsolicited in the mail from a fan?
It was something weird for your nose or maybe for your head. Some new product. It wasn't that weird because I tried it and I mean, that might work, but I was like, "I don't think you can just put it on your helmet." It was like nasal strips or a skull cap. At least people are thinking about you. I had something cool sent. I'm a big wrestling fan, my little boys wrestle non-stop. They think they're like a tag-team. One of the fans, he sent me two tag-team champion of the world belts that they wear around. That was super cool. I always forget to take a picture.
*This interview was edited and condensed. *