BY MARK GOODSON — Many claim to be the biggest fans of their respective professional sports teams. Few follow up the claim with the gusto of Hyattsville resident Paul Wilson. His 38th Avenue home has two rooms devoted to Redskins paraphernalia.
This includes five helmets, one for each phase of design in the modern era. The 1962 helmet — commemorating the year the Redskins broke their franchise’s color barrier, trading for hall-of-famer Bobby Mitchell — was hard to come by. Wilson had to custom build it, using decals he ordered online.
In his 20 years of collecting, he has amassed a small museum’s worth of goods including over a dozen pennants, bobble-heads, tractor-trailers, toy cars, dolls, jerseys, and posters. Wilson also takes his impressive collection on the road to each home game in his souped-up 2001 Ford Crown Vic. Pulling in to tailgate, Wilson is a one-man parade. The car’s interior is a blur of red and gold, complete with a replica of RFK and Fed-Ex stadiums in the rear dash. The exterior is decked out with Redskins decals and custom rims. The car’s horn plays “Hail to the Redskins.”
Wilson doesn’t have any pictures of himself in the car. He said it’s mainly because “everybody wants to take a picture of themselves in it. So, I get out of the way.”
Wilson has enough decals to change the car for every game to reflect the week’s opponent. He changes the window decals three times a year. In October, he supports breast-cancer awareness by using everything Redskins that’s pink. In December, his Crown Vic resembles Santa’s sleigh, if the North Pole were in Landover, Maryland.
Wilson said he has been a Redskins fan since he was 12. His brother James was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “I grew up watching the Steel Curtain and all that stuff. When I got older, I wanted to pick my own team.”
Since then, Wilson has been to each of the three Super Bowl parades in ‘82, ‘87, and ‘91. He began collecting in ‘96.
What does the Redskins’ biggest fan think of the team’s prospects? “On paper it always looks good. The people they pick and all that. Then when it comes down to it, if you don’t play together it don’t matter what’s on paper. We look good on paper every year,” he said.
Wilson said he thought the team should have invested more in a defensive line, but he applauds the management’s handling of quarterback-receiver threat Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed. Cousins received a “franchise tag” in his contract and Reed’s contract pays him $50 million over five years. The stipulation helps to retain Cousins as the Redskins quarterback.
Like many Redskins fans, Wilson has been on a roller-coaster of disappointment, accentuated recently by the Robert Griffin III fallout. While Wilson said he wanted the Heisman Trophy winner to be successful, he said of Griffin, “You can’t play a sport that requires a group effort and want to do it all by yourself. He did himself wrong.”
Now that the Redskins have killed the quarterback controversy, giving Cousins the franchise tag and trading Griffin to the Browns, Wilson said he wants to see the coaching staff put more trust in their quarterback by allowing Cousins to change the play at the line of scrimmage.
Pre-season football in the NFL begins next month and Wilson is ready. He has a ticket for each home game. He has told Cowboys-fan-neighbor Sam Gamble, “eat your turkey early this year,” as the Redskins play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Like most NFL fans, Wilson said he hopes for another Super Bowl victory. He is prepared for it with a custom “championship belt.” Formerly a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) belt, Wilson has exchanged everything WWE for Washington Redskins, down to the spinning logo at the belt’s center.
As for when the Redskins will bring home that elusive Super Bowl victory, the city’s biggest fan knows it will all come down to teamwork.