Locker room leaders often receive such status by virtue of experience, wisdom or charm. Redskins defensive lineman Kedric Golston meets somewhere at the intersection of all three.
“He’s the most influential person to me in the locker room,” linebacker Will Compton said of Golston, the most tenured member of the roster.
The 32-year old some of his teammates call “Uncle Ked” is wrapping up his 10th NFL season. A season that nobody hopes will end until a month from now in San Francisco, site of Super Bowl 50.
That road starts Sunday in Landover at FedEx Field, the site of the Wild Card round matchup between the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers. It's also where Golston, a man who has known only one NFL team and thus one locker room, will play in his third playoff game.
He’s known hundreds of teammates and many “brothers” that he’s gone to battle with. He’s opened his doors to anyone that plays for the Redskins every Thursday night for bible study.
Compton lockers right next to Golston. The two have become close. When asked about Golston, Compton, a second-year player and new-ish starter, speaks of "Uncle Ked" with genuine affection.
“God is number one in his life and he’s a huge family man,” Compton said. “When he talks, he’s always driven by his knowledge. He knows what it takes and he’s very influential.”
That influence also rubs off on been-around-the-block veterans like Terrance Knighton, who doesn't use the "Uncle Ked" nickname for his fellow defensive lineman.
“I’m in my 7th year, so he’s not really my 'uncle,'" Knighton explained. Instead, the footballer most call "Pot Roast" refers to Golston as “O-G” as in “Original Gangsta” as in a guy who has played for a long time. Whatever the moniker, it comes with respect.
"When he speaks up," Knighton says of Golston, "everybody definitely listens.”
Depending on what happens Sunday and this coming offseason, this next game could be the last time anyone hears from Golston as a player for the Washington Redskins.
Nobody knows for sure and nobody should take anything for granted. Golston, a 2006 sixth-round pick who already beat the odds sticking around 10 seasons, certainly doesn't.
Three years ago he played in his second playoff game, a home loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Playoff game number three is set for this Sunday. He's still looking for postseason win number one.
“It’s special. It’s what everybody starting out in the season wants to do," Golston told BreakingBurgundy.com of making the playoffs. "To reach any of your goals, you have to first get to the playoffs. Win your division. “There’s only 12 teams in the National Football League whose season is still going on.”
His previous playoff appearance doubled as the last game Golston played with his best friend, Lorenzo Alexander. The “One Man Gang” left in free agency the following offseason for a deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Alexander played this year with his hometown Oakland Raiders.
While Alexander won’t be in uniform Sunday with his friend, his impact is always there. “He’s made me a better man, a better person and a better player,” Golston said. “I give him a lot of credit for helping me out in my career and for who he is as a person.
“He is a part of this. As long as I’m here, he’s here. We’re one in the same.”
The Redskins hope they will be part of the “Elite Eight” as in one of the eight playoff teams remaining as of Sunday night. If so, Golston's impact on the result will be evident by those in the locker room even if some TV and radio-announcing blowhards probably don’t even know who he is. The work hard, cause no drama types don't make headlines.
Unless they're Pro Bowl-level talents, they also rarely stay in one spot. “Most guys turn into journeymen,” says Knighton, who signed with the Redskins as a free agent last year. Now 140 games into a stellar career, Golston is still going strong and with the same team.
Drafted by Joe Gibbs and retained by Mike Shanahan, Golston re-signed on a long-term deal before he turned 30. Even as the mileage built up, coaches like Jim Haslett, Jay Gruden and Joe Barry wanted him around. Golston has a lot to offer.
“He can do his job and coach you at the same time. He can do both. He’s been in the league long enough,” defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said about his teammate. “For him to be in the postseason, it’s a blessing. Now we’ll see what we can do for him to keep the ball rolling.”
“He means the world to this locker room, Uncle Ked, "says linebacker Mason Foster. One of the in-season additions who helped Washington win the NFC East title, Foster quickly learned where to turn for guidance in the locker room when needed. "I feel like any of the guys can come to him and he’ll lead you in the right way."
It would be fitting if Golston can do something Sunday that he hasn’t done since 2011: Get a sack. It’s not his normal role, but if anybody deserves that spotlight moment and a win, it’s "Uncle Ked."
Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621.
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