During the first day off from training camp, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins got in his car and explored Richmond. It was a Sunday, so he attended service at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church. Then he brought up the map on his phone and drove away from the city.
“I’m not sure what direction I went,” Cousins said. “I think I went north.”
He ended up on a country road and found a blueberry farm, though it was empty that day. Then he stumbled upon a Barnes and Noble, where he sat and read. He finished the day with dinner at Joe’s Inn.
During the three weeks the Redskins called Richmond home, they left the city with many memories. But Richmond, too, left its mark on the Redskins. Its people, atmosphere and, of course, its food won’t soon be forgotten by the professional football players.
“Hospitality is the first word that comes to mind,” Cousins said. “I feel like whether it was the local bar next to the hotel, whether it was the restaurant, the bookstore, the church, every single place I went, people welcomed me with open arms.”
It seems every player noticed and appreciated the large, enthusiastic crowds that attended training camp. Total attendance surpassed 165,000, with more than 25,000 showing up on Fan Appreciation Day alone.
“The Redskins’ fans are second to none,” quarterback Pat White said. “They’re the best that I’ve seen, and I appreciate them coming to support us every day.”
Running back Chris Thompson, a rookie from Florida State, was impressed by the fans who donned Florida State gear. Linebacker Darryl Tapp, a Chesapeake native and former Virginia Tech standout, won’t forget the pleasant weather of the past three weeks. Punter Sav Rocca said the city is bigger than he expected.
Cornerback David Amerson will remember the history Richmond has to offer.
“It’s definitely like an old-school type of town,” the rookie said. “There are a lot of brick roads and stuff like that.”
Darrel Young will remember a woman he met who seemed to know everything about him, even though he isn’t one of the team’s more high-profile players. She knew how he went undrafted out of Villanova and signed with the Redskins. She even knew how to pronounce his first name, with the emphasis on the second syllable, duh-RELL.
They talked about his rookie year in 2009, when Young was initially cut from the team. She told him, “I thought you’d make the team then, but God had a plan for you.”
Young returned to the Redskins in 2010 and this past March signed a three-year, $6.2 million contract with Washington.
Though he grew up in Chesapeake and attended Virginia Tech, cornerback DeAngelo Hall had never spent much time in Richmond before training camp. The city has more to offer than he expected, he said.
“It’s definitely a great city,” Hall said. “We’ve had a blast here.”
Hall dined in restaurants across the city, visiting a local spot for dinner just about every day. Mama Zu’s, Croaker’s Spot, the Roosevelt and Mama J’s, have all hosted him.
“The best has been Mama J’s without a doubt,” Hall said.
The Black Sheep is one of the most talked about restaurants among Redskins players. Its 2-foot, 21/2-pound “battleship” sandwiches are a natural choice for NFL players and their 300-pound frames.
“I got one of those big sandwiches,” said kicker Kai Forbath, who weighs only 197 pounds. He promptly posted a picture of it on Twitter before consuming the mammoth sandwich. “I had no idea.”
Jenny Houston, a manager at The Black Sheep, said she doesn’t know football well enough to recognize any of the players who may have stopped in.
“There have been a lot of big boys in here, I’ll tell you that much,” Houston said.
While other restaurants in the area have reported minimal or no uptick in sales during the Redskins’ stay, the Black Sheep has prospered.
“We’ve definitely felt the effects of it,” Houston said.
When camp started, Forbath asked on Twitter for restaurant recommendations. So he took the recommendations he received and started checking off restaurants, including Carytown Burgers & Fries, The Black Sheep, Millie’s Diner, the Village Café, Sticky Rice, Buz and Ned’s and 3 Monkeys. Millie’s was his favorite.
“(The people) have just been so great to us, so welcoming everywhere we go,” Forbath said. “It’s just really nice people, great food, great city. So I’m looking forward to next year.”
Staff writer Michael Phillips contributed to this report.