Taylor Heinicke is 4-1 since taking over from Carson Wentz as starting quarterback for the Washington Commanders.
He has four new pairs of sneakers to show for this.
In a tradition he started last year, Heinicke gets himself a pair of Air Jordans in the colors of every team he and the Commanders beat. Their success and Heinicke’s popularity with players and fans have made the “Js” a viral sensation far beyond the dressing room.
“I never really wanted it to be that big, but now I’m enjoying it,” Heinicke said on Wednesday. “It’s a cool deal and I think the coolest thing about it is that it doesn’t affect football.
Heinicke has made it his mission to get shoes for teammates to thank them for their contributions – and hopes that incentive “maybe get these guys to run a little bit more”. The starting offensive was the first. Tight ends are next.
“It’s great,” said right tackle Sam Cosmi. “I love sneakers. Anytime I can get a pair of free shoes that are styled, I’m all for it. I appreciate it very much. That means a lot. He really doesn’t have to, but it just shows what a team player and what a quarterback we have.”
The quarterback the Commanders have seems the closest thing to a normal man who has a starting job in the NFL. Heinicke celebrated an upset by the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles by downing some Busch Lights. His personality off the field and uncompromising play have endeared him to fellow players and even coaches.
Old-school trainer Ron Rivera even pulled out his own pair of Air Jordans last week and sported a Heinicke t-shirt to get in on the action. He joked the sneaker gift was “better than beer” and was enjoying that Heinicke was spending some time in the spotlight.
“It’s kind of like Taylor’s shtick right now,” Rivera said. “It’s kind of cool, it really is. His teammates reacted. It’s kind of funny because some of the defenders were yelling at him, ‘Hey, why don’t you get us some?'”
Not among the team’s highest-paid players, Heinicke is two years away from leaving the league and taking online college courses before Washington called on him as a quarantine quarterback. His play, while unorthodox, is showing results and should earn him a nice deal for next season, with the Commanders or elsewhere.
Right now, he’s focused on making a playoff run. And what sneakers he gets, he only thinks about when a game is in the Victory Column, “usually when I get on the bus for away games or in the parking lot for home games after the game.
“It’s bad juju when I watch it before the game.”
His favorite so far? The Houston Texans’ youngest red, white and blue pair to beat the Commanders to go 6-5.
“I’ve been looking at these for a long time and was too scared to pull the pin,” he said. “After that win, I felt it was necessary.”
His teammates love being there and seeing what pair he gets next. If Heinicke can get the Commanders into the playoffs, his closet will be full.
“Why not spoil yourself after a win?” said running back Antonio Gibson. I don’t think that should displease anyone.”
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