You know Tyler Polumbus as the starting right tackle of the Washington Redskins. I know Tyler as not only a guy who has started 31 out of the last 32 regular season games, but one who keeps getting better game after game.
I also know a different side of Polumbus that maybe you don't know, a man that I respect and that I am proud to work around. Polumbus has wrongly (in my opinion) drawn the ire of many Redskins fans for his play at right tackle. If you are being fair, you will see a player who made a big improvement in 2013 as a pass blocker after starting every game but one in 2012 due to a concussion.
Polumbus has been a consistently good run blocking right tackle for the last two seasons, and that is hard to dispute.
This year, he'll have to fend off 3rd round rookie Morgan Moses who will be pushing for his job and I suppose young veteran Tom Compton. He'll no longer have the man that brought him here in Mike Shanahan as his head coach, but I know he still has pretty strong support inside the building.
As he should. The Redskins did pursue Donald Penn in free agency with the thought of making him the right tackle. If they landed Penn, he likely would have been the starter on paper, but was certainly not a guarantee by any means.
They did draft Moses with their top pick of the third round as well, so clearly Jay Gruden and his staff must not love Polumbus right?
I believe that is wrong. Polumbus has one year left on his contract and the Redskins needed a major upgrade at the RESERVE tackle position in case Trent Williams or Polumbus goes down.
Think about this, and this was true last year as it is this year. If Trent Williams goes down, would anybody feel that Tom Compton has even a fair chance to go against some of the dominant pass rushers that Williams battles. I don't know how anybody could realistically expect anything but a debacle if that were to happen.
Even on the right side, defenses regularly move their best pass rusher to the left side of their defensive unit to try and take advantage of certain matchups. The bottom line is this. The Redskins needed a better swing tackle reserve option MORE than they needed a new starting right tackle. That's the truth.
That doesn't mean Moses won't be the starter. One day that will happen. That one day is not September 7th in Houston or September 14th against Jacksonville.
Hell, I'd be very surprised if that day is December 14th to be honest. Maybe December of 2015, but who truly knows.
If you don't believe me, trust ESPN 980's Chris Cooley. Cooley has repeatedly talked about Polumbus being the 2nd best offensive lineman on the Redskins in 2013. Cooley called every game. Cooley knows a lot more than I do. Cooley also gets to talk with the upper echelon of the organization on a very regular basis.
There's a very good chance that Cooley's view isn't a rogue one. It's not one that he is saying without any input or backing from the Redskins staff and front office.
The bottom-line is this. Redskins fans should wrap their arms around Polumbus because he's earned it over the last two years. If you can't get past whatever your frustration is, maybe you will appreciate the 29-year old veteran because he has a special spot in his heart for children with special needs and developmental disabilities.
Recently at Redskins Park, Polumbus held his annual TKO (Tyler's Kids Outreach) football camp for a select group of children and young adults. 100 kids participated this year. With volunteers and spectators, there were over 300 people at the event.
Polumbus, his wife Liz and TKO Program Director, Dawn Ridz have held the camp for a few years in the Washington DC area, but the outreach is far more. "Tyler's Kids Outreach allows us to work with a lot of different kids in various capacities. One of our favorite events that we put on is this camp for children with developmental and physical disabilities," Polumbus told ESPN 980.
"We launched this event in Boulder, CO as that is my hometown and also the town where I have a cousin with Cystic Fibrosis. I wanted to put on an event he could participate in and it has grown from there."
As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome and strong sensory dysfunction, I know the challenges that my son Tyler faces every day.
For one day a year, he's allowed to be just like every other kid his age. He's allowed to have fun by playing football in a wonderful setting.
"Our only expectation when starting this camp was to put on an event that would allow children who normally would not have the opportunity to experience football a first hand experience at the game," Polumbus told me. "We wanted to put smiles on their faces and for a few hours show them that they can do anything they put their mind to."
That they do. As a parent, I can't tell you the joy I have when I watch my son run a cone drill with Polumbus holding his hand and encouraging him to complete the activity. That's a moment and memory that I know my son has and I was able to share with him.
That feeling is shared by Ridz, who flies in from the West Coast to help the camp come to fruition. . She told ESPN 980 "Its hard to put into words how this camp makes me feel each year because its so powerful. Through TKO, we are able to show these kids that "You CAN do it" despite what society has told them their entire lives (due to their developmental or physical disability). A common thread each year is that interacting with the children enriches the lives of everyone at the camp, volunteers and Redskins included. It changes who you are and how you view the world. For me personally, I know that I have made a difference, and that is what TKO is all about!"
My Tyler doesn't know a whole lot about the Redskins, except that I work at Redskins Park and the job keeps me away from home way too much. He knows "RG III," Mike Shanahan, Jay Gruden and he loves a guy who has reached out to him and made him feel special. That is Polumbus.
Of course, an event like this thrives when you have support. Not only corporate/outside support like the NFL Foundation, Maximus Foundation, Reston Shirt, Glory Days Grill, Delta Produce, NRG and Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity but also "there is no doubt that the involvement of the Redskins Charitable Foundation and the support of my teammates is a huge part of (the event)," Polumbus said.
"In the past I have hosted the camp at random fields and it is just not the same experience for the kids as being able to run around on the actual fields that we practice on and get to see our facilities first hand. My teammates have been amazing and every year I have the support of 12-15 of them. I couldn't do it without them."
Polumbus says that at 100 kids, TKO has reached the max capacity of the amount of kids they can handle at one particular event, so the goal is "not necessarily to host more kids at the camp, but rather to do more camps."
At the end of June, Polumbus and TKO will be hosting the camp in Denver where he is from. His Dad lives about 15 miles from downtown Denver and has attended the event both years that I have been in attendance.
"We would love to up the number to three camps next year in different locations," Polumbus says and when you have memories like this - anything is possible.
"My favorite moment of the camp was when I watching the video crew interview a kid and they asked him how much fun he was having," Polumbus told ESPN 980. "His face lit up and he said "on a scale of 1-10 this is easily a 20! That moment confirmed for me that we are doing a great thing."
A great thing indeed Tyler! Thank you. It means the world to these kids, and it touches the heart of a proud Dad who wants his son to enjoy any day that he can.
For more on TKO and the far-reaching effects, please take a moment to check out their activities.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980d
Return to: Chris Russell Blog