Niles Paul: Love from Redskins fans was 'surprising'

Brian Tinsman
March 18, 2018 - 10:30 pm
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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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Wide receiver, tight end, fullback or special teams punisher. Whatever the Washington Redskins needed from Niles Paul, that's what he became, over his seven years playing in D.C.

Many of those roles weren't glamorous, and when it became clear that the team was moving on from him this offseason, that bubbled up some frustration for Paul.

"Stayed down, played my role, and always put the team before myself," he wrote on Twitter one week before free agency. "Sh-- wild, but I don’t even know why I’m acting surprised."

Ten days later, coming off of a fresh new contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Paul had a chance to reflect on his time in D.C., and especially the Redskins fans.

"The love from Redskins fans was surprising," Paul told Lake Lewis of USA TODAY. "I always knew that there were fans and supporters out there that knew the type of player I was. The fans' reaction I got was amazing. It made me feel respected. They saw the heart, love and passion I have for this game. Especially considering I’m not a big-name player.

"I truly appreciated that and it was a highlight for me here. It made me feel like I did something right in my time here. This has been the best most humbling experience and seven-year period in my life."

Paul's connection with fans led to a desire to exceed expectations, to the point where he actually played himself into trouble at times.

Playing alongside Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed, Paul knew that he had to make the most of every opportunity. He explained how the shoulder injury he suffered may have been avoidable for someone who cared less.

"My father and friends were saying I shouldn’t have laid out for my shoulder injury but I needed that catch," he explained to Lewis. "I needed to catch a ball. I needed the opportunity to have the ball in my hands. I needed to be able to try to make a play to show my teammates that I am a legit tight end and more than just a blocker and special teams player."

In Jacksonville, he may have a chance to do that, depending on how things shake out. He will play behind Austin Seferien-Jenkins, Marcedes Lewis and perhaps others, but will be ready if called upon. If nothing else, he will continue to be an enforcer on special teams.

"It’s a good fit for me for a lot of reasons, special teams being the primary reason," Paul told the media this week. "I also look at it as an opportunity to showcase my abilities as an offensive weapon, too."

In the meantime, Paul will work to learn a new city, a new system and a new quarterback in Blake Bortles. But when he thinks back on D.C., it will be with a fondness for the fans.

"This fan base is an incredible group, for what they had for me and this team," he told Lewis. "They stayed loyal to us during times of controversy and they’re just an incredible fan base. So many people got a chance to see me grow as a player and a man.

"I’m forever grateful and D.C. will always be a part of me."

 

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