Thom Loverro: Easy to root for these underdog Redskins

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What has propelled the Washington Redskins to this point, as NFC East champions playing the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the first playoff game at FedEx Field since 1999?

The obvious driving force is the star rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft who was anointed and selling products on a national scale before he took an NFL snap.

But the blood that pumps through this roster now is that of the underdog -- the unheralded, small college football player who has battled for every inch of respect and recognition he has received.

Over the course of time, the Washington Redskins have changed from the Fortune 500 squad of 2000 -- which featured overpaid and over-the-hill stars like Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith -- to a team led by overachievers with no coronations or expectations.

Alfred Morris is the Redskins' single-season rushing record holder -- one of the few coveted marks a franchise truly has in football. He was a sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic -- a close-cover-before-striking school before Howard Schnellenberger arrived there and gave it some profile.

He spent his entire football life as an afterthought. Until, of course, he had the greatest season of any running back in Redskins history.

"I took the road less traveled," Morris said after rushing for 200 yards last Sunday against Dallas. "I'm humbled to be here. What I've done is a win for underdogs everywhere."

The Washington Redskins -- Rocky's team.

Pierre Garcon was a sixth-round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008. He went to not one but two small colleges, starting at Norwich University in Vermont and then transferring to Division III powerhouse Mount Union.

After signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal, Garcon became the Redskins' top receiver with 44 catches for 633 yards despite playing in just 10 games.

"I'm surprised just that I have an impact in the NFL," Garcon told reporters after he caught eight passes in the Redskins' Monday night win over the New York Giants last month. "It's a tough game and a tough league, and not everybody can play in this league. I'm just happy I can help out the team. I just want to impact the team in a positive way and help the team win. That's why I'm out here: to win."

London Fletcher has been waiting for guys like Morris and Garcon. Fletcher is the ultimate long shot, an undrafted linebacker out of John Carroll University in 1998 who has quietly put together a Hall of Fame career and at the age of 37 was just named NFC defensive player of the month.

Let us not forget the coach. Mike Shanahan was a quarterback at Eastern Illinois and nearly died on the practice field from a ruptured kidney.

These are the Washington Redskins.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner