Turkey Day talk

Lichtensteiger on the left, No. 78. Photo by Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images, 2010.

The past few years of Mike Shanahan’s coaching career have intertwined with one Kory Lichtensteiger. Last year, the offensive guard started all but two games for the Redskins after being drafted by the Shanahan-led Denver Broncos.

Lichtensteiger has started a charity, the #78 Society, to raise money for pediatric cancer research and to assist military families. The lineman spoke with me this summer when I was at The Washingtonian about trading cards, getting cut and the NFL lockout.

Which team did you root for when you were younger?
Basketball was king at my school. All my heroes and sports role models were mostly basketball. Reggie Miller was my guy, for the Pacers. I traded my Michael Jordan cards for Reggie Millers.

On draft night in 2008, do you remember what your reaction was when you received the phone call from the Broncos?
I decided I wasn’t going to have a big draft party. Every time somebody I knew had a draft party, they got drafted really late or didn’t get drafted at all. I was in Cold Water, Mich., at my grandparents’ lake house, and I got the call from one of the scouts from the Broncos. “Hey, how do you feel about becoming a Denver Bronco?” I remember kind of a weird sensation came over me. I was confident I was going to be drafted. I was definitely excited, but at the same time, scared and nervous.

You were cut in Denver. What was the most difficult part of that experience?
Sitting up in (Josh McDaniels’) office, hearing you’re not good enough for the team, realizing I have to pack everybody up and move again because I can’t cut it here. We had started to lay down some roots in Denver. I signed with the Redskins, and I was going through training camp and thinking, “This might be my last go round. If I can’t crack it here, I might be done.” When you start thinking about what you’re going to do after football, you’re planning on the possibility of getting cut. That’s when it hits you the hardest.

How about the lockout? What would it mean for you to not have football come August?
It would really affect my life. At this point, it’s what everybody knows me as, a football player. To go a season without it is to maybe redefine who I am. It would be weird. You go a year without it, and you’re basically two years removed from the sport. Not to mention I don’t paid. You get paid game to game, every other week. Eight paychecks.

As a professional athlete, do you feel a sense of responsibility to be a role model?
I have my own children, so I try to be a leader of my own household. It’s the most important part of my role. I would want all the athletes to act a certain manner, so when my children are looking at them as an example, it’s, “Hey, I can be like this, be a good person.”

Was there an experience that led you to work with children?
My kids, they’ve been sick more so than the normal kids. We’ve spent some time in pediatric wards for different things that have come up. A few trips in the ambulance. You interact with parents, and you think how precious a child’s life is. You realize how innocent they are when they’re sick. That kind of thing really touches me as a parent, as a human being.

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