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Diehard Redskins Fan Has The Insane Yard To Prove It

Clevane Gillespie, of North Chesterfield, Va., has taken his fandom to the extreme, turning his front yard into a mulched Redskins shrine.

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At 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, Clevane Gillespie pulls into his driveway inside his burgundy pickup truck and begins unloading materials from his latest trip to the hardware store.

After several years, this drive has become all too familiar, as has the colored mulch that he unloads, rakes and carefully molds into the front lawn of his North Chesterfield, Va., home.

He gets out of his truck, littered with Redskins stickers and cloth interior, stylized enough to make him forget – or at least disregard --that his transmission only works in second gear, and surveys his property with a smile.

"I don't let that [transmission] stop me because I'm determined," he says.  "I tell people, 'Hey, it's still running.' I can't get on the highway. I have to take the long way, but that aint going to stop me."

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The determination he talks about, and his aversion to being "stopped," is channeled towards his yard -- an incomprehensibly rendered bed of tri-colored mulch that displays numerous Redskins logos and messages -- which underwent a transformation several years ago and continues to change in more eye-popping, creative and crazy ways every football season.

When he began turning his yard into a roadside attraction in 2009, the logos and designs lay flat on the ground. Neighbors admired his work but complained they couldn't see them very well. The next few years he began to raise his patterns, giving them a three-dimensional look, and his current head logo stands two feet high above the ground.

"You've got crazy people that come and want to mess your yard up," he says. "So I've got one camera, but I'm going to have to put more cameras. Eventually I'll have to put a fence around it."

The way his excessive fandom has materialized into this shrine emerged from a near tragedy.

Gillespie, a longtime landscaper, was helping remove a branch from his friend's tree. Armed with a chainsaw atop a ladder, he cut the tree's limb but it swung back towards him, knocking him sideways and injured his vertebrae on the fall. The accident forced to him to have surgery and lost him functionality in his left arm.

With limited dexterity and a passion to continue his line of work, Gillespie couldn't spend energy mowing grass. His wife wanted him to go on disability, but he chose to mulch instead.

He starts around June, works from 6 a.m. to sometimes 9 p.m., and spends about $1,000 dollars each year on materials, going to a variety of stores – Home Depot, Lowes, local outlets – to find the mulch that's fine and perfectly ground to his liking. This helps it congeal once he finishes his designs, and he promises that rain and snow storms – he's installed irrigation – won't disrupt them.

"You've got two feet beneath this mulch. Underneath that is a heavy duty layer of plaster," he says. "It aint going nowhere."

And while the patterns of color are intricate and precise, somehow, Gillespie doesn't need a diagram to map out his creations.

"Basically I just look at the picture in my head," Gillespie says.  "What I do is I try to make it exactly like it is. I get that picture focused in my mind and I just go to it. God just gives me that special eye. I step back when I do it, and I can tell if it's right or if it's not right. Once I get it in my mind, I know what needs to be done."

So far he's completed the Redskins logo and beds that spell out "RG3," "NFL" and "Go Skins." His backyard has a dug-in coy pond and four wooden chairs that he'll eventually paint the colors of each NFC East team.

He shows me pictures of the finished product from last year inside a photo album he keeps by the backseat of his truck. It's filled with other memorable items, too: game tickets and photos of news reporters interviewing him, other landscaping projects.

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He and his wife each have a couple of kids and spent this past spring taking their grandson, a football player, on some college visits. She has put up with his Redskins obsession and become a fan herself.

"Sometimes I work late at night until my wife makes me come in," he says. "She comes in and makes sure I stay hydrated. So she tells me, she's my best critic. She lets me know what's what."

Gillespie grew up in Fayetville, N.C., watching Sonny Jurgensen on his black and white T.V., back when the Redskins "had the arrow on the helmet," and he's stuck with them ever since. He says, more than once, he's the No. 1 Redskins fan in the world, and it's hard to disagree.

"I tell them, there aint nothing like this in the United States of America," he says, in a voice that's borderline shouting. "Even if you go on the internet and type in 'Redskins fan yard,' all the writers will talk about me, but most of them don't even know my name."

Because of that college visit, he says he's a little behind this year, and he seems visibly upset by it.

He gets requests all the time from people to walk around and observe his yard, so he's installing a rubber walkway through his art, a miniature tourist path he hopes might raise some money, because buying bags of colored mulch is not easy on his bank account.

Regardless, he has no plans to stop. In fact, "you aint seen nothing yet," he promises.

Which, in reality, is a testament to many things; namely, his ego, his innovation and passion for landscaping and his unrelenting, unwavering dedication to the Washington Redskins.

"Sometimes I look at [my yard]," he says, "and it brings me tears."

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