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Leftwich Goes From Redskins Fan to Jaguars QB

As a youth growing up in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1980s, Byron Leftwich would often sneak into RFK Stadium with his older brother Kevin to watch his beloved Redskins on game day.

Both diehard Redskins fans, they would cry when the Redskins lost, rejoice when they won, and even boo when the team wasn't playing well. If the Redskins were down by two points and had to kick a field goal to win the game, they would just turn the TV off and pray for the best.

After Redskins games, Byron and Kevin would join a group of friends on 58th Street SE in the city and play football into Sunday evening until it was dinner time.

Through it all, Leftwich had no idea he would grow up to become a starting quarterback in the NFL. After a stellar career at Marshall, he was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the seventh overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

He calls Jacksonville home now, and the Jaguars are his team now, but he maintains roots in Washington, D.C., and has fond memories of cheering on the Redskins.

Leftwich makes his return to Washington, D.C., this Sunday when his Jaguars take on the Redskins at FedExField. He played his high school football at H.D. Woodson and lettered in football, basketball and baseball.

"It'll be a special game for me because I did grow up there," he said. "It gives a lot of friends and family who still live there a chance to see me play."

During a conference call with Washington, D.C., reporters on Wednesday, Leftwich recounted his memories of going to RFK and watching the Redskins as a youth.

On sneaking into RFK Stadium to watch games, Leftwich said: "I knew a ticket-taker guy, and he would say, 'If you walk up and then run by, I can't chase you because I can't leave the line.' So we would just run through [the entrance to RFK] and they would never chase us. Then we would just sit in people's seats until they came. We would just walk around and watch the game standing."

Who was his favorite player?

"Whoever played good that week," he replied. "Sometimes it was Mark Rypien. Sometimes it was Darrell Green. Sometimes it was Earnest Byner. Sometimes it was Doug Williams. It was everybody, man."

What about booing your favorite team?

"Oh, I booed everybody," he said, laughing. "I was a true fan. I had a chance to tell Joe [Thiesmann] that. I told him I remember when he got his leg broken and the very next play Jay Schroeder threw it about 70 yard downfield. He overthrew the guy by about 30 yards. I remember asking my brother, 'Who is this guy?'"

Now Leftwich is the guy at quarterback, and he's a rising star in the league. Last season, he led the Jaguars to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth. He completed 175-of-302 passes for 2,123 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.

This season, Leftwich has completed 65-of-101 passes for 604 yards, along with two touchdowns and four interceptions, in leading the Jaguars to a 2-1 record. He was picked off twice in Sunday's 21-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at the RCA Dome.

Now it's on to play the Redskins, his hometown team. He has put his childhood rooting interests behind him.

"It changes, because as you start playing college football, you start realizing, 'I'm going to have a chance to play in the NFL.' And the second they call your name [on draft day], and it was the Jacksonville Jaguars, it changes real quick.

"My family had to change, too. They were diehard Redskins fans, too. Now, it's the Jaguars, then everyone figures out what the Redskins did."

Leftwich said he's not worried about playing in front of so many relatives and friends from Washington, D.C., for the first time. There will be no butterflies, he said.

"Once the game starts, I can't worry about them. Once the game starts, it's football. You can allow it to effect you, but only if you allow it to. I told all my friends, 'Don't call me after Wednesday about tickets. Give me the amount of tickets we'll need right now so that I can worry about the football part of it.'"

As of Wednesday afternoon, Leftwich said he has purchased nearly 100 tickets for family and friends.

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