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All NFL players are human beings. That means they enjoy things outside of their profession. They have hobbies and tastes and interests just like you and me.
For Redskins tight end Niles Paul, it's going to the movies.
As he rehabs and recovers from the ankle injury he sustained at the beginning of the preseason, he also has some more free time to head to the local theater and catch up on the latest flicks, his favorite pastime.
Each week I'll sit down with Paul and we'll converse about the most recent movies he's seen, debate about their strengths and weaknesses, needlessly scrutinize or praise actors and directors, analyze his Netflix queue, and, hopefully, find another window into Paul's personality.
In our latest conversation, we go deep on the new boxing movie "Creed," its place in the "Rocky" pantheon and find out about Paul's own boxing skills.
RB: The last time we got together, we were getting ready for "Creed." After seeing it, what did you think?
NP: I was wondering how they were going to explain Apollo Creed's son. I know from the previous "Rocky" movies, Apollo Creed didn't have a son. He had his wife and then he died. I thought it was interesting that they made Apollo Creed a legend in this movie. He is the Muhammed Ali of the movie. But Apollo Creed wasn't faithful to his wife, committed adultery; they still had this little boy and had his wife take on the responsibility of this little boy, who was mentally a spitting image of his father, Apollo Creed. He was a fighter and that's what he was meant to be. He was at the lowest point of his life as a little kid. They brought him up, she took him in, because she loved Apollo Creed that much.
I like how they paid tribute to the old "Rocky." They gave Sylvester Stallone just enough lines for him to be himself, for it to feel like a "Rocky" movie, but to understand that it was passing the torch. What I loved most about this movie was the [director Ryan Coogler's] direction in the dialogue. It was so up to date and so with the times.
They say the word "jawn."
They say "jawn," they say "bull." All types of stuff, of lingo, that some people might not understand but it's how we would have a conversation with each other. People in Philly, that's how I know they talk. And they showed love to Philly when it came to the scooters and four wheelers and stuff like that. They showed a lot of love and respect to Philly. Even the fighting scenes were so much more authentic to me than "Southpaw" or a regular boxing movie. The only problem I had was with the championship boxer -- he didn't look like a boxer. He just looked like some dude they found off the street to play in a movie…It was clear they were setting up a second "Rocky" movie with the initial fight.
It sounds like it was the authenticity that struck a chord with you -- the kids popping wheelies behind Michael B. Jordan, mimicking the children running behind "Rocky."
A lot of people thought that was corny and I was like, "You don't understand what that means, the tribute it pays to the old 'Rocky' movie and to Philly, where it's at right now." It's a new era. This is like the new "Rocky." They did it well enough where they could make a "Creed 2" and I would go see it.
Did you have any specific lingo growing up in Nebraska?
We say "bruh" a lot in the Midwest. That could be universal. We say "fam." It all depends on what area you grew up. Where I'm from, I grew up saying "bruh" a lot [like] how Michael B. Jordan did in "Fruitvale Station."
You mentioned the direction. I thought the single takes, where it doesn't cut from him in the ring, were something I'd never seen before in a boxing movie, where you're right on his shoulder when he's getting punched.
Maybe that's why I liked this so much, because it was just so real. There was actually a clip floating around where they say Michael B. Jordan really got knocked out. They show it, they're warming up, they yell "action" and he hits Michael B. Jordan and he just falls out. Everybody was saying it's real. I don't know how real it is.
Well, if you're in a boxing movie, you want to get hit.
No, he definitely took a hit. But I don't know if it was a knockout.
Did you ever consider boxing as a young kid?
I always wanted to box. I used to box growing up. My dad bought us a pair of gloves when we were little when we used to box all the time in the streets. I never boxed in a match. As I got older, I learned how to box. I learned how to actually fight.
So you had a local gym?
Yeah we had a local gym I went to. I always looked at boxing as my favorite sport. I love watching boxing. If I could, I would be a boxer, but I don't think I'm skilled enough right now to be a boxer.
When did you start to switch to football?
When I was in high school, I was more so focused on track, football and basketball. I never really had time for boxing. My pops had the gloves at the crib and we would just play-fight all the time. We had a punching bag and everything. Even to this day I still train, I still box. Obviously I can't right now because of my ankle. But every summer I did boxing, I did Moy-Tai, I did MMA. I just do random stuff in the summer to see what I liked. Boxing is still my favorite out of them all.
I'd imagine watching this movie, you must have had some visceral reactions and wanted to get up and box, too.
I love this movie, man. Though it did have one corny part: When he stood up in front of the screen and started boxing like he was Rocky. I was like, "I feel the contribution you're making, and the love you're showing Rocky, but that got a little corny." But it didn't affect the movie at all. Watching that, it just reminded me of why I love boxing. Every time I see a fight, it makes me think, "I could do that." But I'm not a boxer. These dudes have been doing this since they were 6-years old.
Who would be in your corner?
Probably my brother and my pops. Maybe not my pop, because he talks too much.
He'd get in your head too much?
Yeah, he'd get me knocked out.
One thing this movie continues this year along the lines of "Mad Max and "Jurassic World" is that it's a reboot of an old franchise, but it still feels new and unique. Do you feel like that's the best way to create these "sequels?"
Yeah, it's an easy way to make money. In a way I do feel like they just copied and pasted the original "Rocky" and put it in "Creed." Even the fight, I just knew that he was going to come back at the end and lose. When done right, it's a respect thing, and all the people that loved "Rocky" will appreciate this one. This is the new generation. What we're doing is renovating or rejuvenating an old movie and introducing it to a new generation of kids and allowing them to experience what our parents got to experience when they first saw it.
And then giving them a black actor, too.
Yeah, racially and culturally, that's a big step for us. Not only do we have Michael B. Jordan playing such an influential actor to what Rocky Balboa was to his time, Michael B. Jordan can be Creed and do that for kids of our time and actually inspire a lot of kids.