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Meritocracy Reigns Supreme In Washington

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Since arriving in Washington, D.C. in 2010, head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen have put the scouting department to good use, scouring the football world for hidden talent.

Their efforts have turned up players like obscure draft pick running back-turned-superstar Alfred Morris, college free agent linebacker-turned-fullback Darrel Young and reserve defensive end-turned-captain Stephen Bowen.

All told, the Washington Redskins currently have 17-of-61 players on the roster and practice squad that never heard their name called on draft day.

Of those 17, eight were given a chance by Shanahan in Washington. Another, Polumbus, got his first chance with Shanahan in Denver.

This commitment to finding playmakers, regardless of investment, does not go unnoticed in the locker room, where players like Darrel Young praise Shanahan for his opportunity.

"It's what you want in a head coach. Everyone talks about that and preaches it, but how many guys follow through with it?" he asked. "When you're a free agent, you definitely have to prove yourself a little bit more than other guys because you aren't as high on the radar.

"For guys like Nick Williams, those guys are out there proving themselves each and every week. Knowing Shanahan's history, those guys will have chance to make this roster and even the practice squad."

Young can certainly attest to that.

After a successful career at area FCS powerhouse Villanova, Young came to Washington as an undersized linebacker and struggled to find his groove on defense.

But the coaching staff recognized the makings and mentality of an NFL player and asked Young to convert to fullback, a position he had never played.

After another tryout, Young was signed and mentored by veteran Mike Sellers. The rest, as they say, is history.

But Young still hasn't forgotten his roots, offering advice and guidance to undrafted rookies before roster cuts last week. He said he will remain in contact with them no matter what happened during cuts.

"I told Marvin Burdette I started as a linebacker. So say you want to play fullback next year?" he told Redskins.com. "Regardless of what happens, one: you've got to stay in shape if you want to play this game.

"Two: always prepare for the worst because you never know what's going to happen, but go out there and do your best on the field. But don't worry about the business side of things because you can't control that at the end of the day."

Burdette played well in limited preseason action, but was ultimately one of the players waived during roster downsizing.

For Young, this is a familiar feeling as he needed three tries to latch on with the Redskins.

"Just stay mentally tough. I got cut twice in a two week span," he said. "It's frustrating because you don't know why. You don't have a reason and everyone says you've been playing good, but there has to be a reason why you get released. For most guys like myself, it was the first time ever being cut from a league.

"Honestly, just keep your head up and prepare. It was definitely a challenge, mentally, but you fight through that stage. That's what makes you successful in the NFL."

Regardless of the numbers crunch, one thing Young is certain of is that everyone got a fair chance to prove his worth.

"If you came to Redskins Park and say you didn't have an opportunity, it's because you didn't work hard," he said with a shrug. "For everyone, it's fair game once you get in here."

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