By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Area fans filled the home stands at the Handley Bowl on Thursday to welcome the Washington Redskins as they began their 80th Anniversary Thank You Tour.
Larry Michael, "voice of the Redskins," was the first to speak, and introduced Bruce Allen, the executive vice president and general manager, and alumni players Fred Dean, Dexter Manley and Mark Moseley. He also led short interviews in front of the crowd with current offensive linemen Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery.
Football teams from seven area high schools were in attendance, as were residents of all ages as the event was free and open to the public.
"We know we're in Redskins country when we're here," Michael said.
"This tour is about our great history," said Allen. "Redskins today are trying to make tomorrow better."
Allen mentioned one new addition to the team, Robert Griffen III.
"We've got ourselves a fantastic young quarterback," he said over cheers. "But there are 89 other players trying to represent your pride and your passion."
All seven football teams were recognized, and one player from Handley was asked down to the track to give Manley a handshake. Afterwards, the two faced off and tackled each other before Manley jogged away, smiling.
"I only see one face, and that's the face of the future," he said, addressing the crowd.
Moseley, whose son plays for Sherando High School, said that Winchester is his home.
"And the folks here aren't just Redskins fans, they're good people," he said. Wrapping up, he urged young players to stay focused.
"It's not worth having if it's not worth working for," he said.
Michael said both Lichtensteiger and Montgomery had come straight from practice earlier in the day, and asked what their first impressions were of the event.
"These fans ... they're diehard," Lichtensteiger said. "It's a good illustration of how much people are behind us."
Montgomery offered some advice to the young athletes in attendance.
"Grades come first," he noted. "But stay low, hands inside."
He also commented on working with the team's newest addition.
"We're still getting to know Robert, but he's a charismatic guy," he said. "Everybody on the team will follow him into battle."
As to what the fans can expect in the upcoming season, Lichtensteiger offered some motivation.
"The last two years left a bad taste in my mouth," he said. "I like winning. Our careers are tied to success, so there's no other option."
The tour will continue on Friday in Shenandoah County, where stops will be made at three high schools with various players. From 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the public can go out to Relay for Life at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, to see the Redskins on their final stop in the area.
In a later interview Allen said his mother is a breast cancer survivor.
"We know it touches everyone's lives, so anything we can do to help, we will," he said.
As for the first day of the tour, Allen said he was pleased with the turnout and the effect it was already having on the team.
"Between stops I've called people back at Redskin Park to say 'We've really got to step up, these people are ready to go,'" he said. "We thought we were going to come thank the fans, but they're actually motivating us to do great things."