Editor’s Note: “Dreams Do Come True” is a five-part series. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here.
I hustled up to my hotel room to quickly change and get up to the 19th floor to meet with Mr. Allen. I quickly called my wife Samantha and she said a prayer for me over the phone and we both said, “Amen.”
I had put on a brand new Redskins white golf shirt and a white matching Redskins hat we bought for this meeting. I looked in the mirror in the bathroom, took a deep breath and left for the elevator.
However, I quickly discovered that I needed a special key card to get up to the 19th floor to his suite. I started to panic just a little. I had passed someone who worked for the hotel on my way to the elevator and I found her walking down the hallway. I quickly explained my situation and how I had a big interview with the President of the Washington Redskins. She said, “Follow me.”
We went to another set of elevators, but her card key didn’t even work for her to get to the top floor, the 19th floor! Now I was really starting to feel even more nervous. I asked her, “Is there a stairwell that goes up to 19?” She said, “Yes, follow me.”
I got to the stairwell and ran up seven flights of stairs, only to discover I needed a special card key to even open the stairwell door for the fire escape on the 19th floor! I ran back down to the 12th floor and found her again and she then walked me into a special stairwell for employees only. I ran up the seven flights of stairs again and this time I was able to get into the hallway of the 19th floor! I thought to myself, “Is this some kind of a test to see how resourceful I can be,” and sort of chuckled.
I saw the room number on the door to his room and took a deep breath. His room had big double doors. I knocked. He opened the door. He was dressed casually too, so it’s a good thing I didn’t do the whole suit and tie thing, I thought.
“Hello Mr. Allen,” I said.
He smiled and said, “Hello Daniel, you can just call me Bruce.”
I said, “Okay, Bruce.”
He invited me to sit down on the couch and asked me if I would like a bottle of water. I said I would and sat down on a couch opposite of where he’d be sitting. There was a big screen television on the wall that had a college football game on. His suite was huge! I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! It was like townhouse or something. I looked over and there was a big dining room table and a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It was super fancy.
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He returned and handed me a bottle of water and started asking me how the playground build went and I told him all about it and then I handed him a special autographed copy of my book, Whatever it Takes.
He said, “I already have one of these.”
I said, “I know, I just wrote you a special message inside the front cover and specifically also wanted you to have this one.”
He said, “Thank you,” and sat back down on the couch.
He kept looking at and studying all the college football scores and there were was an upset he was particularly interested in and he asked me what my thoughts on that were. He struck me as someone who really was dialed in to what was happening in the college game and was looking at all the college players.
He was sitting on the other couch facing me with his legs crossed, looking fairly relaxed. I was sitting on the edge of the couch as the adrenaline was surging through my veins. Like a championship racehorse in the gates before the start of a race, I was ready. I felt so ready. I’m sure I looked pretty intense as we both were talking about some of the college football games that day.
I felt tense, but relaxed at the same time. He just had a way about him that made me feel somewhat relaxed. He had this really inviting relaxed smile to go along with his piercing steel-blue eyes. He explained to me how he had wrestled with if he should bring me out now or wait until after the season in January, but he had decided to do it now because of how big of a fan I was and how much I loved the team and how cool it probably would be for me to be a part of the Alumni weekend. I nodded and said, “Absolutely Sir, this is great.”
“So what are these ideas you have for me” he asked. I reached into my bag like a gunslinger reaching for his gun in an old west gunfight and pulled out my Redskins and Vikings team reports and handed them to him.
I said, “I prepared these for you, Sir.”
He replied, “I thought you might prepare something for me.”
I said, “Absolutely, yes Sir, I have.”
He continued to watch some of the highlights of the college games on the television as he carefully perused through the pages of my Redskins team report. I had color-coded and graded all the players on the team. I could see he was reading one of my reports and he said, “Yeah, you wouldn’t probably know what the coaches are asking some of these guys to do, so that makes sense.” I just listened and carefully watched what he was doing.
I said, “Towards the front of the report is one of my main ideas Sir, it’s called the ‘Great Wall of Washington.’ Just like President Trump wants to build a wall, I too want to build a wall on our punt return unit on special teams.”
Bruce responded, “Speaking of President Trump, if you look out my window behind me, you can see the back up Air Force One parked on the tarmac behind the hotel.” I stood up and looked out the window and sure enough, there it was, Air Force One! Sometimes my life really does feel like my favorite movie of all-time, Forrest Gump. Bruce pointing that out only made me feel even a more heightened awareness of where I was, who I was talking to and what I was doing. Wow!
Bruce said, “So please tell me, what is the Great Wall of Washington, what’s that all about?” I went into great detail with him about how it had never been done before in the NFL. It was a concept of putting all the reserve big guys, all the reserve offensive and defensive linemen across the line of scrimmage on the punt return unit which would make it next to impossible for the opponent’s punt teams to release. That would buy our return guy even more time to get going.
Then, I went into great detail how I was proposing to put two backup linebackers right back by the punt returner and line them up there as “Bodyguards,” one right next to the returner on each side of him. The idea was that when the gunners, usually backup receivers or defensive backs on the other team came down inside towards the punt returner’s face that the bodyguards would bounce them out and clear the way for the punt returner. Plus, the smaller guys don’t really want to man up against linebackers to begin with, so it would be super intimidating as well. This would keep the gunners out of the punt returner’s face and really optimize our return game. It would really open things up for our punt returner.
I said, “And then we could put Chris Thompson back there to return since he is so fast and can change direction.”
Bruce interrupted me and said, “Can’t catch.”
I said, “Okay, sorry, I didn’t know that, but someone like that who is fast and can change direction quickly.”
Bruce looked at me and said, “Yeah it’s hard to believe because he catches so well out of the back field like I’m sure you’ve seen, but for whatever reason, he has trouble catching punts” He continued studying my Redskins team report.
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Bruce said, “My concern would be injury to the linemen.”
I replied, “I totally understand that, that’s why I was thinking about backup linemen instead.”
He sort of smiled, nodded and went back to looking through the report carefully.
Is that where you see yourself being the biggest asset to us, on special teams,” he asked?
I replied, “Absolutely, I love special teams. I mean I could see myself anywhere you see fit, but I love special teams, always have, ever since I was growing up.”
I reached into my bag and pulled out a 350-page book on special teams I had self-published during my third season in the league with the Jets. I had been the Jets special teams scout and I had been put in charge of doing all the advance scouting work on special teams. I had worked with the Jets special teams coach Mike Sweatman all season long.
It was a fascinating project on many levels. I had developed a color-coding grading system that identified where all the opponents’ strengths and weaknesses were on all the special teams units by evaluating all the players extensively. From there, we could move guys around to win at different match-ups. By doing this, it was possible to control the field position game, which mathematically provided a better opportunity to win offensively, defensively, and ultimately, overall. It was also possible to find the best special teams players in the league and easily acquire them since other teams don’t really protect or value those guys and they can often be acquired at league-minimum salaries.
I explained how I was able to see how the transferable skill set for players at whatever offensive or defensive position also shows up on special teams film. For example, if a receiver rounds everything off on special teams, there’s a pretty good chance he’s somewhat stiff in the hips and he will not be able to run tight routes on offense and linebackers show on special teams how good they are at using their hands to shed blocks and that will probably hold true on defense as well. Bruce continued listening to me.
I said, “I really believe it’s possible to build the best special teams in the NFL, build the best depth in the NFL and do a better job than any other team controlling the field position, which would give us a huge game-day advantage.”
I could tell he was impressed by the size of my special teams book by his body language while looking at it. It probably weighs a few pounds.
I said, “Yeah, I love to write and I love to evaluate.”
He said with a half smile, “You definitely love to write.”
I responded, “I have dreaming of this moment my entire life.”
He said sort of smiling, “Dreaming of coming out here for the Alumni weekend?”
I said, “Absolutely.”
I had meant for a chance to interview with the Redskins, but I just went with what he was saying and smiled.
He said, “What I would love to do is compare the way you have these players ranked in this special teams book to the guy who does all that special teams stuff with the Dallas Morning News.” He said that would be really interesting to him.
I mentioned how in 2012 I came close to landing a position with the Philadelphia Eagles when I was in contact with Andy Reid and his Special Teams Coach, Bobby April and how Coach April loved my special teams book saying it was “Excellent,” three times in the first two minutes of our conversation we had on the phone. Then I told Bruce how I had also sent the same book as he was holding to Danny Smith (the former Redskins Special Teams Coach).
He quickly replied, “Our Danny Smith?”
I said, “Yes Sir, I sent it to Danny Smith back in 2012 also around the same time I had sent it to Bobby April. I went on to tell Bruce, “Coach Smith really liked my special teams book and told me that I would be in the mix for a college scouting position after the draft that year.”
Bruce asked, “With us?”
I replied, “Yes.”
Bruce said, “Interesting,” nodded and went back to looking at my special teams book. He told me how he loved Danny Smith and what a great special teams coach he is. I said, “I agree.”
Bruce asked the same question again he had asked me a couple times prior on the phone, “So what have you been doing, what have you been up to since you left the Jets?” I shared with him how I had a slight chance with the Cardinals in 2006, more about how I almost got hired by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 and then I told him about the dream I had in 2017.
I shared how I had a very really realistic dream one night that I was the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns and I woke up and the Holy Spirit told me to “Write a note to the owner of the Cleveland Browns and tell him you can put together a Hall of Fame staff within three weeks if given the opportunity and send him a copy of your book.”
A slight look of amusement came across Bruce’s face when I told him all this as he listened. I explained to Bruce, I ended up sending that note to Jimmy Haslam, the owner of the Cleveland Browns and he actually wrote back, thanked me for my book and had asked me for my ideas on his personal stationery and the letter was hand-signed by him! I pulled the letter out of my bag from Mr. Haslam and handed it to Bruce.
I then pulled out of my bag another big book I had written, a 166-page proposal that was filled with revolutionary ideas that nobody had ever done before in the NFL. This 166-page proposal was my GM proposal I had prepared for Mr. Haslam and the Cleveland Browns when I had gone for that position. I shared all about the six-seven months it took to put the proposal together and how my wife and I even flew to Cleveland by faith and faith alone to try to meet with Mr. Haslam.
Bruce spent a few minutes looking through my GM Proposal and my full team scouting report that accompanied it. He commented on a couple of guys they had in Washington that went on to play in Cleveland. He then talked about the thing he really loved and respected most about Bill Belichick is how he got so much out of players, like with linebacker Jamie Collins as an example. He talked about how he had Jamie in New England, then he went to Cleveland and now how he was back in New England and was playing so well again.
I shared with Bruce how I knew Dr. David Hull Jr., who used to run LSU and how he had gotten my name on the list for the SEC in case any teams were looking for someone like me on special teams. Bruce asked, “How strong of a chance do you think you have with that working out?”
I replied, “I honestly don’t know how it will play out, all I know is I was told my name is on that list.”
Then he asked me a question that sort of struck me as being a little different. It just felt sort out of place, but I went with it and answered it. It had a feel to it that maybe he had gotten some information from someone about me and my time at the Jets.
He asked me, “How would you describe your working relationship with the guys at the Jets?”
I looked at him and said, “Good, I got along with all the guys I worked with really well,” which was the truth. I got along with all the young guys I broke into the league with. I had some run-ins with management, which are well documented in my book, but I got along really well with all the younger guys I worked with, the guys who were my peers.
Bruce said, “Have you reached out to Herm Edwards at ASU?” I told him, “No, I haven’t yet, I worked on his staff my fourth season with the Jets, but I haven’t reached out to him yet.”
He picked up my Minnesota Vikings advance report again and said, “We have a guy in pro who’s going to have one of these on my desk first thing Monday morning and what I’m going to do is go through yours and compare it.”
Bruce asked, “What other ideas do you have for me?”
I asked him if he would please go back to my Redskins team report for a moment and open it to a few pages in. He did so and started reading and smiled again, “Tim Tebow, you want us to sign Tim?” I said, “Yes Sir and the reason is, I love his leadership, I love how he brings out the best in everyone, how he helps everyone fulfill their greatest potential around him and I think he would be a great addition to our locker room and to our the team. He’s just a natural-born winner Sir.”
Bruce started sharing with me about how former Broncos Offensive Coordinator, Mike McCoy had game planned to use Tim in their offense. I just listened. It was fascinating listening to Bruce explain how the Broncos game planned for Tebow and how it all worked with the Broncos the year he led them to the playoffs. I shared with Bruce how much I loved Tebow and about what I thought he could do for the Redskins. I told him I still believed he could do it. I still believed Tebow could win.
Bruce said, “The things I like about you are your positive vibe, your ability to persevere, your passion and you appear to have the work ethic. I can find guys all day long to be our third equipment manager who have the passion, who love the game of football and just want to be around it, but to find someone who has all of these things along with the work ethic is rare.” He paused, put my report down on the couch beside him, still holding it in his hand and he looked me dead square in my eyes.
“And more than anything Daniel, I just want someone who gives a [expletive]!”
I felt that. His words in that moment penetrated my soul. It was an intense moment between us as he stared intently into my eyes for a few seconds without saying another word. It was in that moment, I could see in his eyes how badly he wanted to win.
I responded with a heavy emphasis in my words starring right back into his eyes without blinking, “Absolutely, I get that. Bruce, I would absolutely love to do this and I would absolutely love to work for the Washington Redskins!”
“I know that already Daniel, you don’t need to tell me that, I know that,” he replied. He went on say, “It’s just a matter of figuring out what I should do with you.”
I exclaimed, “Hire me” and sort of chuckled a half nervous chuckle. I felt comfortable enough to say it. He made me feel comfortable enough to say it. I’m usually not quite that bold, but I knew I had to take the shot in that moment.
Bruce replied, “I know that, it’s just a matter of figuring out where to put you.
Now the conversation was getting really serious.
He continued on by saying, “I just don’t know what to do with you or where to put you.” I felt like he was almost asking out loud so I responded, “How about bringing me in as the Special Teams Scout and I could help prepare for free agency?”
He asked me how long it took me to make the 350-page special teams book that I did at the Jets. I responded, “About seven months for all 32 teams.” He said, “No, probably not, we have guys working on free agency for us right now, plus I won’t want to make our guys look over their shoulder if I brought in someone new, it won’t be fair to them and it won’t be fair to put you in that position.”
Bruce looked back at the television at the Wisconsin score that day and he said, “It would be different if you were a sales guy, I’d say, come in and sell a suite for us.” I paused for a split second thinking maybe I should say something in that moment because, in reality, I had years of high-level sales experience since being out of the league, but instead I let it go and didn’t say anything in response.
He asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” His question really took me by surprise. It shouldn’t of, but it did. I mean that’s one of the most basic things a potential employer can ask, but I hadn’t planned for it for whatever reason. I was speechless for a couple of very uncomfortable feeling moments. I’m usually never a loss for words, but just nothing came to my mind. I drew a blank and said, “Nothing I can really think of. Sir”
I sat there for a few more moments and finally something came to mind, “Where do you see me fitting best,” I asked.
Bruce replied, “Well, I really like your versatility how you have experience working some on the coaching side and with how you’ve worked in pro scouting. I think if for example if our assistant special teams guy leaves for the University of Pittsburgh, then I would sit you down to have that conversation with our Special Teams Coach or if something opens up on the college side, I’d sit you down with Doug [Williams] or Kyle [Smith] and have you formally interview with them.”
I responded, “That would be great, I would love that opportunity and I just need to say it again, I really want this Bruce, I really want to work with the Redskins.”
Once again he responded sort of smiling a warm smile, “I know that Daniel, you really don’t need to tell me that, I know that.”
About an hour and a half hour had passed in our time visiting together. Bruce looked at the time and said that he had a meeting coming up with Coach Callahan in about an hour and he got up from the couch and started walking towards the door. I got up and followed.
As he walked towards the door to his suite he said, “One thing I know for sure is great things will happen for someone who has as much passion as you do.”
I replied, “Yes Sir, absolutely.” I extended my hand to him and he extended his towards me and we shook hands.
I said, “Thank you Bruce, sincerely thank you for bringing me out here and for all of this, for everything, this is really a dream come true for me.” He said, “You’re welcome Daniel, we’ll be in touch.” I replied, “I really look forward to hearing from you.”
I walked out of his suite filled with so many thoughts and so many emotions wondering what would happen next…
Part 4 of “Dream Do Come True” will be released next Sunday.