According to Major League Baseball lore, White Sox outfielder Joseph Jefferson Jackson earned his nickname of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson for batting barefooted during a bout of blisters on his feet.
He was one of the greatest players of the early 20th century, but unfortunately his socks weren’t the dirtiest thing about him.
The connection to the Redskins comes through Roy Helu Jr.’s similar discomfort with wearing shoes. When he walks in to the facilities in the morning, he usually sports socks and sandals. After practice, he cuts the tape off, removes his cleats, and goes shoeless around Redskins Park for the rest of the day.
A recent newcomer to Twitter (@RoyHeluJr29), Helu tweeted a typical picture of himself in film study this afternoon: shoes off, feet up, and an ice cold…Gatorade in hand:
“I was notorious at Nebraska for not wearing shoes,” Helu explained to me matter-of-factly. “Plenty of people have warned me about foot fungus and told me it’s gross, but I feel like home here. It’s no disrespect, I’m just very comfortable here.”
Helu has pretty big kicks, wearing size 12-wide, when they are actually on. And you know what they say about big feet, right?
It’s tough to find comfortable shoes, of course.
“I haven’t really found a pair that are comfortable to wear after practice,so no shoe deals yet,” he said with a grin. “But one thing that I’ve been trying to keep under wraps and not tell anyone–the REAL reason why I don’t wear shoes, is because I’m looking to be a foot model in my post-football career.”
After all, the foot industry frequently turns to retired running backs for the next generation of models.
“It’s all about exposure,” he continued, totally deadpan. “So when someone sees my feet, hopefully they’ll say, ‘Wow, those are some strong, athletic feet.’ That’s what I want, right?”
In all seriousness, Helu told me he is very flat-footed, which may contribute to his discomfort in shoes. But, as Jr. learned from Roy Helu Sr. (also flat-footed), there is a belief in the South Pacific Islands that flat-footed athletes are more balanced runners while cutting.
There may not be science behind that, but it certainly worked for Helu Sr., who was an accomplished rugby player in his day. It’s working equally well for Helu Jr., who has mastered the one-cut stretch zone.
Just please don’t ask him to wear sneakers during film study.
“For me, it’s all about marketing/being comfortable,” he concluded, with a laugh.
For more awesome content, give “Shoeless” Roy Helu a follow on Twitter (@RoyHeluJr29).
Tags: Nebraska, Roy Helu Jr., running back, shoes, washington redskins
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