Terry McLaurin was going through his regular routine during Wednesday's practice when Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff gave him their congratulations. Confused, McLaurin looked around and said, "What happened?"
It didn't take long for McLaurin to get his answer, as the Washington Football Team ended practice that day by announcing him as a unanimous team captain. To have that kind of respect from coaches and teammates, McLaurin later told local media, is a testament to the character and hard-working mentality the brings to the organization every day.
Often a lead-by-example type of player, McLaurin has been placed in a role that will demand more of him. His mentality is not going to change, but he intends to embrace the new responsibilities that come with being a captain.
"While it's a great honor," McLaurin said, "I feel like the thing that helped me get this honor was coming to work every day, being the guy that works hard and walks the walk and doesn't talk the talk."
McLaurin's production has never been an issue; in 21 games, he has 101 receptions for 1,496 yards and nine touchdowns. After putting together one of the best rookie seasons for a receiver in franchise history, McLaurin is 12th in the NFL with 577 yards and two touchdowns.
His production, along with his preparation, has continued to impress head coach Ron Rivera. He knew McLaurin was talented when he first came to Washington, but he was surprised by how mature McLaurin was for a second-year player.
"Terry's one of those guys that prepares the right way, every day," Rivera said Oct. 23. "He's one of those guys that understands how to take care of himself, how to prevent injuries, how to take care of injuries. He's a young pro."
But what has struck McLaurin's coaches and teammates the most has been the way he leads. He learned those skills during his time at Ohio State when he helped turned the receiver position, which according to McLaurin was considered a weakness of the team, into a group that featured three captains.
"Over the course of my time there, I learned a lot of leadership skills...from a lot of great people, players and coaches," McLaurin said. "I'm fortunate enough to have that experience at Ohio State [to know what] it's like to be a leader for a great program like that. I'm just trying to take what I learned there, try to bring it here and continue to try to learn and grow."
It's rare, said quarterback Kyle Allen, for a receiver to have that kind of leadership and desire to win. It was obvious to Allen that McLaurin possessed those qualities when the two first met.
"Terry was kind of a quiet guy, but he came in and worked. He showed work ethic," Allen said. "I said this to him early in the season, I said: 'You're a guy that can be great, but you can also be one of the best leaders on this team. You've got a lot more to say than you think you have.'"
There were others aside from Allen who wanted McLaurin to speak up more often. In October, Moses approached McLaurin to tell him he is no longer a young receiver, and more is expected of him.
"Terry, we need you to be more vocal," Moses told McLaurin. "As a young receiver group, they look at you and see how you carry yourself as a football player on and off the field. We need you to be that vocal person in that group of receivers."
Four weeks later, McLaurin did exactly that after Washington's 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys. His message was that the team played complementary football, which was something it could build on for the future.
"I know it's a little bit out of his comfort zone to stand up and talk in front of everybody," Moses said with a smile, "but it was good to see that because he's that type of player."
McLaurin knows he will need to be more vocal now that he is a captain. That doesn't mean he has to tell people what to do, but he does have more of a responsibility to uphold the standard he sets for himself.
"You're trying to convey and relay the message that the coaching staff and the leaders of this team set forth," he said. "So, I just want to try to add to that going forward as the rest of the season progresses."
McLaurin knew when he was drafted that he had certain leadership qualities that teams coveted, but he didn't seek out that role. He just simply wanted to do his job, work hard and be productive on Sundays. That has not gone unnoticed by his teammates, which is why it was so easy for them to choose him as one of their captains.
"Everyone on this team respects him," Allen said. "He deserves that 'C' on his chest more than anybody else."