Richmond -- Arie Kouandjio grew up in the D.C. area, but he didn’t necessarily grow up a fan of the Washington Redskins. No, nothing as bad as cheering for the team with a star on their helmet or another NFC East foe. Rather something more animated.
“I liked cartoons, Kouandjio said recently during a radio interview on ESPN 980’s The Drive. Yes, the now hulking offensive lineman had other interests in his younger days.
The transition from Power Rangers to power football evolved over the years as he matriculated from DeMatha High School to the University of Alabama to his first NFL training camp. Washington selected the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Now comes the next transition: Going from college star to making an NFL roster. Actually, Kouandjio’s slot on the 53-man squad appears secure. He’s impressed during camp in Richmond. Interesting that of the changes in level, he doesn’t feel the college to pro has been the toughest so far.
“I think, because of my maturity level...D.C. to Alabama was a little bit tougher,” Kouandjio, said. “You know, I took a couple of life lessons at Alabama to help me get here, so that's part of it.”
A two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, Kouandjio isn’t denying he faces a tough challenge learning the NFL game. Not at all.
“Regardless of where I was before, you know, this is the next level. Things are a little bit harder. I anticipated that,” he said. “I’m not surprised. You know, at this level a lot of people are strong. They say everybody is strong, everybody’s fast.”
Having one of the most respected line coaches in the league is helping Kouandjio turn gifts into strengths.
The Redskins learned plenty of lessons about their offensive line in 2014. Specifically, help was required. The unit gave up the second most sacks in the league and was only 19th in rushing yards per game.
Washington went ahead and used to early picks on help, including first rounder Brandon Scherff. They also added former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan as their new offensive line guru."
“We’re looking on a lot of things, long story short,” Kouandjio said of his work with Callahan. “He has a lot to teach. He knows a lot of things and it’s just great kind of getting to get that from somebody who’s as experienced and has as much time put into the game.”
Kouandjio and second-year lineman Spencer Long serve as the primary reserves behind Scherff and veteran left guard Shawn Lauvao. Depending on his growth and what happens elsewhere within the unit, his role could expand. Kouandjio showed promise in his preseason debut against the Browns. Three more games remain before the real games kickoff. For now, the local kid simply appreciates the opportunity with the local team.
“It’s been amazing, you know, getting to be so close to the guys I grew up with,” he said. “It’s good to represent them.”
Maybe one day, if he turns his physical tools into Pro Bowl performances, he’ll be represented in cartoon form. Now that would be making it.
Forrest Cobble contributed to this story