In Kirk Cousins, the Redskins have found a franchise player, both on and off the field

Stardom has taken down notable NFL players. It's Kirk Cousins' time for that extra attention -- and the Redskins passer is doing his best to stay grounded.

ASHBURN, Va. -- Kirk Cousins is the Washington Redskins' franchise quarterback and player by contract, but he’s far from being bigger than the franchise.

Even when he gets his $100 million-plus deal about a month from now or next offseason -- assuming he gets it from the Redskins --- he’ll never be "that guy." 

Essentially, Cousins will never become what Robert Griffin III was before the Heisman Trophy winner was even drafted and then what "RGIII" exploded into with a very strong helping hand from an organization that often cared more about marketing and money than doing things the right way. Cousins is taking more command and more control of the Redskins' offense, the locker room and, by extension, the public message set forth by the most important individual player on the team.

He’s also taking control over one other important thing – his life. Now that he’s financially set thanks to the nearly $20 million coming via the franchise tag, he can take care of his family, his wife’s family, his future children’s families and their families.

It's not just about the cash, but the plan. It was important for Cousins to take the next step and to do it the right way. 

There’s no doubt that he is enjoying his newfound NFL celebrity a little bit, as he should. There’s also no doubt (in any reasonable mind) that he’ll do it the right way, now and later*.

[Wait? Wasn’t that a terrible candy at one point?]

Even before many recognized his on-field improvements last season, he become known league-wide for uttering one of 2015's most popular catchphrases, “You Like That!" Now some might wonder if Cousins is enjoying himself and his rock star status a bit too much. He’s been to the Super Bowl and London, twice. He showed off his comedic acting chopsfilmed a commercial and had his football camp

Cousins was asked Tuesday during his final media availability of the Redskins' offseason program how he has approached this new part of his world.

“I think my wife and I have a good filter of how to say yes and how to say no,” Cousins told reporters. “Great opportunities do come your way as an NFL player and you’d like to take advantage of as many as you can. He added, "You end up saying no to a lot more than you say yes."

I loved how Cousins answered this question. First, he’s saying flat out that his wife is very much a part of the decision-making process. That will help balance him.

I don’t know Julie Cousins at all, having met her only once or twice, but my understanding is that she is a very rational and down-to-earth woman. In other words, it’s unlikely that she will be using her husband’s fame to springboard their lives into something they’re not equipped to handle.

I do feel I know Kirk Cousins pretty well. I've covered him since the day he was drafted. He won’t allow for his head to swell and get out of control. Why? His background. His family. His grind to where he is now. His beliefs. His personality. His down-to-earth, aw-shucks demeanor. 

Cousins isn’t trying to be something or someone he isn’t. He knows he is a husband, a son, a teammate, a quarterback first, not a celebrity. He pointed out that even though his NFL stardom is new, his stint as Michigan State's quarterback was for a major program with a huge campus. Experience from that scenario helps with handling the current situation. 

“I learned in my early 20s how it’s tough to say no," Cousins said, "but you have to do that in order to protect what’s most important."

He didn’t expand on that "most important" response, but if you know anything about Cousins, it’s not appearing in every single commercial he can or becoming something he’s not.

Redskins fans should be a bit nervous because of everything they went through with their previous franchise hurler. However, they really shouldn’t be because the situations are completely different.

With all due respect to everyone involved -- there’s no rolling out of the red carpet for Cousins like there was for Griffin. Cousins' family is not involved in the football aspects of his career. Nobody is going to make this QB out to be a savior or a messiah as people did incredulously with Griffin. It’s just not going to happen. You could see it happening with Griffin before he was drafted, before the trade with St. Louis was orchestrated. You would hear that the Redskins were much more into Griffin than they were Andrew Luck. You would hear that from the people who saw dollar signs first and a quarterback second.

Cousins set franchise record after franchise record last year. Then he received the franchise tag. He didn't protest, he didn't squawk, he didn't cry. He signed his contract immediately, unlike nearly all players who receive the restrictive tag, including one of his new teammates.

Cousins turned his “You Like That!” platform into a T-shirt campaign to raise money and awareness for the International Justice Mission, “a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world,” according to its website.

He and his wife adopted a dog named Bentley this winter and recently attended the Washington Humane Society and Washington Animal Rescue League’s “Bark Ball."

Despite those extra zeroes on his bank statements, teammates state Cousins "is the same guy" they knew the previous four seasons. The "Eight Car," as my pal, 106.7 The FAN's Grant Paulsen calls him, goes to “Shake Shack” following Redskins home games, sometimes in his infamous conversion van.

Cousins wasn’t driving the van last week when he pulled over to say hello to somebody he didn’t have to say hello to -- me. We were both on our way out of Redskins Park. I was not paying attention to my surroundings -- or the car approaching me from behind. The driver, who is tasked with scanning an entire football field for his day job, was. The car pulled up and much to my surprise, there was Cousins. He stopped to say hello and ask how I was doing. Not a big deal, but it was genuine. 

I would say that’s rare, but it’s not. At least the gesture wasn’t. It’s the kind of guy Cousins is. He’ll ask how my kids are or how I am doing, because he’s genuinely a good person.

That’s why I don’t worry about him, his stardom or his ability to handle every opportunity thrown at him.

He’ll do what he always does: Smile, say thanks and then let common sense take control of the wheel. 

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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