Photo by Brian Murphy for The Sports Capitol
Derrius Guice and the power of the authentic self
BY BEN STANDIG | JUNE 7, 2018
Sometimes the only PR boost required is being yourself.
Redskins rookie Derrius Guice arrived in the city known for spin lugging a tarnished reputation.
Rumors and reports focusing primarily on supposed immature actions popped around the time of, if not during, April’s NFL Draft. The running back slipped from a potential first-round pick to No. 57 overall where Washington stopped the slide.
Since then, the runner known for elusive moves that corkscrew defenders turned negative perception upside down. He did so with enthusiasm on the practice field, activity in the community and an infectious smile that travels.
That grin is with Guice on the field despite the pressure that comes with a second-round selection, transitioning from the college ranks to the pro game, and learning a thick playbook loaded with new terminology.
It’s front and center on social media; the two pictures connected on his main page show a smiling Guice rather than a too-cool-for-school version.
It’s authentic when he invites fans to watch the latest “Avengers” movie in the theater on his dime or meet him up at a bowling alley. It shines through even when clowning with a hot dog jammed in his mouth at a recent Washington Mystics home game.
“That’s the person I am,” Guice said during an exclusive interview with The Sports Capitol following Wednesday’s Organized Team Activities (OTA) session. “I’m not one of those players who gets drafted and forgets where I come from. I’m very active on social media. I like interacting with the fans. I like showing them that I do care that they’re supportive and that they are fans. I like doing stuff like going to the movies in my free time, so I thought why not invite a few fans to come chill with me. I just thought it would be something cool to do.”
Kissing babies may win votes, but ultimately constituents must believe the act is genuine.
All of the interactions with players, coaches and fans come across as sincere. By all accounts, this is no con.
“I’m not doing it for any special reason. I’m just being me,” Guice said. “Now everybody is seeing who I really am. I’m not the person everybody portrayed me to be at the draft. That was off the edge. I don’t know why it happened, but it happened. It’s over with. Now people are really starting to see who I am.”
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Fans love the idea of interacting with their players from their favorite teams. Common guidelines suggest an autograph, perhaps a photograph and if the timing/mood stars align, maybe a chat the length of a two-minute drill. Hanging out with one of the players? Stop it.
“Every event that I’ve been to (the fans have said) they appreciate what I’m doing and how I’ve been active with them,” Guice said. “I just like that as a player that they come to the games. They want to know who you really are outside of football, or at least some of them do. … Some of them think it’s really cool to hang out with a Derrius Guice on a day-to-day basis during my free time to get to know who I am besides football. I think it’s really cool to really give them some of that at times and treat them sometimes. They give a lot of money to us and put a lot of money into the sport, so it’s not a bad idea to give some back every now and then.”
Guice understands that ultimately it’s about what he does between the lines. To date, the media only catches a glimpse of who Guice is on the field during the one-day per OTA session opened for reporters. Wednesday’s edition included the former LSU star showing off his pass receiving chops while working with the first team. The Tigers rarely deployed that aspect of Guice, which is perhaps why coach Jay Gruden, in response to a question about the running backs elevating the offense, phrased part of his response “and even Derrius [Guice] catches the ball. [It’s] been very exciting.”
The backfield generated little excitement last season other than Chris Thompson breaking off long gainers before a season-ending injury in November. Guice’s presence, aggressive running style and open-field shiftiness raises expectations and opens up opportunities for the playbook. He likely opens the season as the early-down option, though the job won’t be gifted.
The 20-year-old grasps this and knows work is required. Not just in front of thousands when the lights come on, but on the hidden practice fields in Ashburn months before the season kicks off. Guice believes he’s already shown he’s down for work.
“That I can be productive. That I can be thrown in there and know what to do. That I’m a student of the game and I know what’s going on. That I’m very active,” he told The Sports Capitol of what he’s demonstrated through nearly three full weeks of OTA sessions and the rookie minicamp. “I show great footwork and finishing (runs) a lot on the field.
“When we’re in the classroom I’ve always got my book out, I’m always writing notes down. I’m always active with the coaches with what’s going on with the install. I’m just showing them that I am willing and wanting to learn. They see that and it’s not going unnoticed.”
Little about Derrius Guice has gone unnoticed since he arrived in town. That’s because in part he decided to live life out and about rather than let rumors, many of which have proved unfounded, keep him shuttered. Any public relations shop in town would be thrilled if a client executed like this kid from Louisiana. This is no script. Being your authentic self can work magic especially when that version comes with an infectious smile, football hope and chilling at the movies.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.