Cornerback Carlos Rogers and quarterback Jason Campbell were two of the key elements in Auburn's 13-0 finish last season. The value of adding such young players out of a winning program wasn't lost on the Redskins.
Head coach Joe Gibbs introduced both of the Redskins' first-round draft picks Monday at Redskins Park, and he was quick to recognize the winning tradition at Auburn.
"Maybe we just like winners," Gibbs said. "They go undefeated, we like them. We hope some of that will carry over to the Redskins."
Gibbs presented Campbell with a Redskins jersey bearing No. 17, which Campbell wore at Auburn. Quarterbacks Billy Kilmer and Doug Williams made that number famous in Washington, and Campbell said he would wear it proudly with their blessing.
Campbell worked with Williams, who is currently a personnel executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for a week at the Senior Bowl in January and the two developed a good relationship.
"He always gave me great advice," Campbell said. "He's pushing for me, rooting me on. If I need anything, any help, or have any questions, I can always call him. I can't put myself in comparison with him. I just need to be myself."
The reigning Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year hails from Taylorsville, Mississippi, a small town with less than 2,000 people. Campbell said that he looks up to another quarterback from a small town in Mississippi, Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titans.
McNair, who calls Mount Olive his home, befriended Campbell when Campbell attended his summer camps as a youngster. Although the two haven't spoken since the draft, Campbell keeps McNair's advice in the front of his mind.
Said Campbell: "He told me, 'Just be yourself. Don't try to change anything that you do.' He said, 'Continue to work hard, be competitive. That is what got you to this level. Nothing comes easy. You've got to work at everything that you want.'"
Campbell played for four different offensive coordinators during his four seasons at Auburn. That experience, he said, has prepared him for learning Gibbs' offense.
"I can say that I've got a lot of knowledge of the game," Campbell said. "I understand all the different offenses that I ran. I got a chance to see many defenses against different formations."
At 6-4, 223 pounds, Campbell towered over the microphone at Redskins Park. He was an All-State basketball player in high school, but football became his primary sport beginning in seventh grade after he assuaged his mother's fears about the danger of the sport.
"After my dad saw me playing in the yard, throwing the ball around, I played quarterback from that point," Campbell said. "I always felt like it was a better opportunity for me to get to the National Football League at the quarterback position."
Like Campbell, Rogers, sporting No. 32 on Monday, was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball and running track. He understands that he must work hard to earn a spot in the Redskins' starting lineup.
"It's not given to you because you're a first- round pick," Rogers said. "That's something I understood from growing up and playing football at each level. I've got to work, and that's one thing I'm about--working hard."
Rogers got the nickname "Cash" at Auburn and joked that he got it "picking off balls from Jason in practice." His addition should give the Redskins more flexibility on defense in terms of stacking the line of scrimmage.
"Defenses today, what they're wanting to do is overload the front box," Gibbs said. "They want to put everybody in there, but there's only one way you can do that: if you can count on those guys outside."
Gibbs said that during his visit to Auburn, he got a feel for the type of team atmosphere that exists in the program. He hopes that positive environment eases Rogers' and Campbell's transition to the Redskins.
"I think both these guys understand team--and they are team players," Gibbs said. "That's a big deal for us."