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Tuesday, June 23: Brian Orakpo, Fashion Maven

Posted by Matt Terl on June 23, 2009 – 5:21 pm

Most of the times that I’ve seen first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo, he’s been dressed waaaayyyyy on the casual side of casual. Sure, that’s because I usually see him when he’s either on his way in to work out or on his way home after working out, but still: he’s pretty much a casual dude.

“I’m not a real trendy guy,” he told me. “You know, you kinda see me doing the same thing year after year. I do my own thing. I like the slim fit shirts and jeans, nice black and white shoes. That’s the type of guy that I am, and I’ve been like that for awhile.” And, sure enough, he was wearing black shorts and a black T-shirt as he explained this.

Which just made it all the more unusual that we were on our way to the Donovan House hotel in downtown D.C. so that Orakpo could do a fashion shoot at the rooftop pool for Washington Life magazine.

So I had to ask him if he had ever done a photo shoot before.

“Not too much,” he said. “I did some back in college, but obviously those were football related. You know, shoulder pads and stuff like that, put ’em on magazines and stuff. I’m not sure what I’m going to be wearing at this one. I’m just gonna go up there, be surprised, have fun with it.”

Also scheduled to be at the shoot were Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals and Santino Quaranta of DC United, which made me wonder if Orakpo had noticed the community of pro athletes that’s sort of formed around the DC teams, with Redskins at Caps games and Alex Ovechkin and Brendan Haywood on the FedExField sidelines and so on.

“I sense it, yeah,” he said. “I talked to Cooley, and he said that’s what all the guys do. They do what they like doing, they’re kinda supporting each of the other teams around the so-called tri-state. I get a sense of that and I want to be a part of that tradition as well.”
Had he followed either of these guys?

“I’m a huge baseball fan, but I’m a hometown guy,” he told me. “I like the Astros, being born and raised in Houston. But I know a lot about Zimmerman, he’s been doing a great job this year. I was hoping he’d be able to continue that hitting streak that he had; it didn’t work out, but he’s playing great.”

Zimmerman played along great with the photo shoot as well. The theme of the shoot was “The Men of Summer” (or “The Boys of Summer” depending on who you asked), so the selection of couture tended toward lightweight pastels and printed cotton pants. “My favorite might’ve been the white pants with the sailboats on them,” Zimmerman told me afterward, and he wasn’t kidding. (Although I should probably clarify that they were very hip blueprints of sailboats and other nautical stuff, not the child-like silkscreened sailboat pajamas his description conjures up.)

This led to a number of occasions where Zimmerman and Quaranta were instructed to “look gangster” in a two-person shot while wearing the least stereotypically gangster clothing in all of recorded history. “I practice my gangster face probably two or three times a week,” Zimmerman said afterward, and it did look effortless; in fact, there were several occasions when I wasn’t sure if he was looking gangster or just looking at the camera.

That one was just looking at the camera.

All three of the guys agreed that this was the most seriously fashion-oriented photo shoot they’d ever been on, but they also all seemed to enjoy it. It was Quaranta who brought up the only real concern of the afternoon. “The guys are gonna kill me in the locker room,” he said.

You think? “Oh, I know.”

But, I pointed out, you kept your shirt on and didn’t get photographed with a goat.

“Right,” he said, “So I’m not gonna get the Tom Brady thing, but” — he pointed at Orakpo — “I think he’s gonna get the Mark Sanchez thing. Especially coming in as a rookie, too. It’s gonna be rough.”

This seemed like a valid concern — Jets first-round rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez did a shirtless beach photo shoot for GQ, and it’s apparently been a fairly substantial source of locker room mockery during the team’s offseason activities. Once Orakpo was back in his normal clothes and we were on our way back to Redskins Park, I asked him if that had been any kind of a worry.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, that’s a good question, because probably Sanchez wasn’t too much worried about it, and he got made fun of. Who knows, they might pull it out for the rookie show or something. Lets keep it under wraps and just, you know, keep it in family.”

I blithely assured him that no one reads the blog and got on to the issue that had intrigued me the most during the shoot: the $17,000.00 watch. I mean, I can safely say that I will never, ever buy a SEVENTEEN-THOUSAND DOLLAR watch. Write it down. Book it. Take it to the bank. No chance.

But Orakpo is about to get paid as an NFL team’s #1 overall pick. Such a thing is not out of the question for him. What did he think of being asked to wear something like that?

“It was nice,” he said, “but I could NOT get that thing in the water. That was the main emphasis.”

Could you even imagine spending that much money on a watch? I mean, isn’t that kind of out there?

“Yeah, I still have the mentality of, you know, that is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a watch.” Thank goodness. “Who’s to say? I would think a 17,000 dollar watch would have all kinds of diamonds, and all kinds of luxurious stuff on them. But it seemed to be pretty normal.”

Maybe it tells time really well. Other than my watch obsession, what’d you think of your first real fashion shoot?

“It was interesting. You know, it wasn’t bad at all, you know. Obviously, I thought it would be more football-related; this is my first time where it’s just casual, relaxing attire. So, you know, a little different, but it was interesting just doing all kinds of poses and stuff like that.”

Anything you could imagine actually wearing?

“Probably the slim fit shirt” — the pinkish-colored one pictured at the top of the post. “It was a little too tight, but I wear stuff like that when I’m out and about. You know casual wear, so that wouldn’t be bad.”

And what was the most difficult part for you?

“Probably the most difficult part was smiling and trying to pose at the same time. I really have a hard time fake smiling, it just doesn’t seem normal, probably for anyone to do, so that’s probably the hardest thing. Posing at the same time just makes it tougher.”

The tough look wasn’t so unusual, though.

“Yeah, the tough look, I do that all the time. I do that for a living, you know, the tough look is natural for me. I’m pretty good in front of a camera as far as that. But smiling when nothing’s funny is kind of difficult.”

Last question, then, and it’s the one the fans have been worrying about all offseason: how’s the transition to linebacker coming?

“I’m feeling great, I’m feeling great. And…just for everyone out there, they brought me here for a reason. They’re not going to take away what I do best, and that’s getting after the quarterback. The linebacker position is just another asset that we can use as far as my game. You know, they know what they’re doing, I know what I’m doing, and they brought me here for a reason: to get after quarterbacks.”

(This issue of Washington Life magazine will be on sale after July 4th at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Whole Foods stores around the DMV, or check the piece out online then at Washington Life’s website.)

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