Robert Griffin III was in eighth grade when his father was deployed to serve his country in Iraq.
Griffin III did all he could to distract himself from thinking about the danger his father faced in the Middle East — digging deeper into an already-busy athletic lifestyle, playing video games or being with his friends and family — but nothing could completely keep the 13-year-old Griffin III’s father out of the back of his mind.
Quinten Shibusawa knows those feelings all too well.
Shibusawa, 15, has been fortunate enough to see his father return home from two tours in Iraq and his saw sister return from her tour there just last year.
So when Quinten learned his father, Olaf, a major in the U.S. Army, would soon be shipped off for another tour — this time in Afghanistan — the rising 10th grader at Kettle Run High School in Nokesville, Va., wanted to do something special for his old man, a lifelong Redskins fan.
“I found out my dad wasn’t going to be able to go to any games this year,” Quinten said. “I knew he might not be able to even make it to training camp, so I sent a letter asking if maybe we could come by and meet some of the players.”
That letter — handwritten on a sheet of notebook paper — was sent directly to Redskins’ owner Daniel M. Snyder.
Quinten said he was unsure if he’d ever hear back.
“I didn’t think it would really get anywhere,” he said. “But it was worth a try.”
And though the Shibusawas have their favorite Redskins veterans like tight end Chris Cooley and linebacker London Fletcher, Quinten had secretly set his sights on meeting Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and No. 2 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Quinten said the first time he actually watched Griffin III play was in the Alamo Bowl last December, a shootout between Baylor and Washington that Griffin III’s Bears won 67-56.
“I turned on the Alamo Bowl, and I was like, ‘Dang!’” Quinten said. “I was like, ‘This is the player that we need to get.’ And, sure enough, that’s how it turned out.”
‘I’m in shock’
Meanwhile, at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Snyder and his staff were more than happy to honor Quinten’s request.
The teenager said he recently received the shock of his life when he got a voicemail from the Redskins asking him and his family to come out training camp.
“I was like, ‘What?!” Quinten recalled thinking upon receiving the call.
And there they were Thursday at the team’s first training camp practice of the 2012 season, sitting under a tent and taking in the sights and the sounds.
Quinten’s mother, Julie, who has served in the military herself, said the experience was “surreal.”
“It’s something that I could’ve never done for them, and it’s very emotional,” Julie said. “It’s just surreal, and everybody’s been so incredibly nice and gone up and beyond what we ever could’ve expected.”
Olaf Shibusawa — already incredibly proud of his son prior to the trip — said he was shocked to hear about Quinten’s letter to the Redskins, his favorite team since he was a child.
“Even today I’m in shock,” Olaf said Thursday.
Olaf said has gone to great lengths to keep up with the Redskins while overseas.
“I’ve woken up at 2 o’clock in the morning to watch the Redskins when I was in Iraq previously,” he said.
After practice ended Thursday, Olaf had several more-than-willing Redskins players sign his lucky Army helmet, which has gotten him through two tours and, he anticipates, will get him through his next tour in Afghanistan.
But the final player to sign Olaf’s Army helmet was none other than Griffin III, who could relate directly to what Quinten was going through.
“I was in a similar situation,” Griffin III said after meeting the Shibusawas. “It’s not easy by any means. It was good to meet them, give them a little bit of advice and just let him know that he’s not alone and some of the things he can do to help him get through that time.”
Griffin III said children in today’s military families can often be affected by war-themed video games like “Call of Duty” and “Ghost Recon,” where “you’re shooting bullets and you’re getting hit by bullets, but by the end of the game, you’re still alive.”
“So I think for a teenager growing up, it’s hard because their parents are going off to war. You don’t get to talk to them, you don’t know if they’re coming back, and I think that can be devastating for a lot of kids and sometimes kids go astray just because they don’t know what to do.”
Quinten said meeting Griffin III was something he’ll always remember — and not just because of his notoriety on the football field.
“It’s great because people don’t really know what it feels like for a parent to be over (serving duty),” he said. “It’s pretty special.”
And just what did Griffin III tell Quinten about his father’s upcoming deployment?
“You just gotta try to say positive and know that no matter what you do, you’re doing it to make your dad or your mom proud,” Griffin III said. “So no matter what happens, you’ll be alright.”
Here’s video of Griffin III meeting the Shibusawas Thursday after the Redskins’ first training camp practice of the 2012 season at Redskins Park.
Here’s some photos from the Shibusawas’ trip to Redskins Park on Thursday:
Tags: military, Robert Griffin III, Training Camp, U.S. Army, washington redskins
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