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Redskins QB Campbell draws crowd

March 21, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN -- For a brief moment, Jason Campbell might have thought he died and went to Washington Redskins heaven.

Well, at least the Hagerstown branch of it.

There was a line of rabid fans clad in about every style of Redskins' garb imaginable. There was a tailgating atmosphere, complete with grilling food, kiosk tents, balloons and banners.

There even was that slight nip in the air that, in a different time and place, would have felt like an early September day in Landover, Md.

Instead, it was the second day of spring and the close to 500 people in line around PNC Bank's Longmeadow Regional Banking Center were there to see Campbell, the Redskins' quarterback, sit behind a table signing autographs instead of crouching behind center barking signals.

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"Things like this are important," said Campbell, who finished his first full year at control of the Redskins' offense. "It is real important to come out and see the fans who support us all year, but never really get to see us outside of watching us on TV."

The patient, but anxious, fans surrounded Campbell like the Dallas Cowboys defense in the PNC business lobby for the bank's local anniversary event.

The fans entered the lobby in groups of 20 for the opportunity to score a personal touchdown -- a Campbell autograph, hello and possible handshake. Many took the opportunity to remember their 15 seconds of fame with a camera photo or cell phone snapshot.

"Let's kick butt this year," yelled one fan as he left his private audience. "Especially Dallas."

It was the enthusiasm and commitment to the team Campbell almost expected as he signed white footballs, gold footballs and burgundy-and-gold footballs. There were hats and shirts and even the back of a team jacket one fan was wearing. There was a helmet phone, trading cards and even a Redskins' potholder and blanket that were brought in to catch the pinpoint precision of Campbell's Sharpie.

It was all in an off day's work for the Redskins' player who quietly is becoming one of the faces of the Washington franchise.

"I feel comfortable," Campbell said. "As the quarterback of the football team, people know who you are."

That, in itself, was enough to bring out fans such as Rob Wilson and his family, who all showed up decked out in Redskins gear.

"This is great," the Hagerstown resident said. "I've been a Redskins fan since I was knee-high to a grasshopper ... like 38 years. I'm raising my boy to be a Redskins fan. It's a family tradition for him."

On the surface, the whole experience wasn't as life-changing to 8-year-old Matthew Wilson.

"It was very cool," Matthew said. "I have never met him and he's a famous guy."

So why does Matthew want to be a Redskins fan?

"Because (Rob Wilson) likes to be a Redskins fan, so I want to be one," he said.

Redskin unity with a lesson, especially among younger fans, was one objective for Campbell.

"I want to help show kids that there is another way of life," Campbell said. "I want to help show them what they can do."

At the worst, they would become lifelong Redskins fans.

One like Wilson, who said there only was one thing that would have kept him from coming to PNC's Regional Banking Center to see Campbell.

"If (former Redskins quarterback Joe) Theismann was somewhere else here in town," he said with a smile.

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