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Griffin maximizes this human compulsion by embodying so many qualities with which people want to identify, especially the character traits that supplement his physical talents.

“He lived a life that a lot of us that aren’t famous lived,” Mattix said. “Here he is making it big time, and he just has really good morals. Everything he talks about he wants to make better. He’s not in the NFL to make money. He’s in it for the love of the game.”

After all, what more literal method is there to identify with someone than to wear their shirt, one that bears their name? Griffin’s jersey sales from April 2012 through March set a single-year NFL record, according to the league.

Keith Elgin, a 32-year-old Christian musician from Woodbridge, similarly identifies with Griffin’s values. He relates to how Griffin occasionally refers to Biblical passages in his tweets. His experience playing youth sports relates him to Griffin’s work ethic, team leadership and playing success with the Redskins, his favorite team.

After a link publicizing Griffin’s wedding registry at Bed Bath & Beyond appeared on his Twitter timeline this spring, Elgin and his wife, Emily, bought Griffin a welcome mat for $15. “It’s nothing too deep,” he said. “I guess you could say it’s a novelty.”

Elgin didn’t foresee the notoriety that followed. He experienced a backlash on Twitter from those who believed he should have spent his money on a cause more worthy than furnishing a multimillionaire’s home. A media crush included coverage by CNN, USA Today and NFL Network. Someone even started a parody Twitter account with the handle @welcomematkeith.

Elgin, though, received the keepsake of a lifetime, an unexpected bonus in return for his gesture of encouragement. Griffin’s wife, Rebecca, wrote the Elgins a thank-you note that Griffin signed.

Melnick credits Griffin for reciprocating a connection with Keith and making their relationship bidirectional. That fosters the positive effects of Elgin’s identification with him.

“I can’t be a loser if Griffin has sent me a thank-you card for my present,” Melnick said. “How can I be a loser? I’m a winner. Self-esteem enhancement; status enhancement; expanding one’s social network — even though it’s mythical.

“If my social network is very limited, then I have no friends. I don’t know anybody. I’m a marginalized human being. This allows me entry into the sacred world of Robert Griffin.”

Willing to connect

Griffin’s ability — and willingness — to connect with people sets him apart from other celebrities, specialists say. Because humans are, by nature, social creatures, Griffin’s accessibility maximizes his popularity.

Although the Redskins shelter Griffin from one-on-one interactions with reporters, he’s constantly in our homes, reaching out to us on television to sell Gatorade or Subway sandwiches. He also engages his more than 948,500 Twitter followers, maintaining an online presence strong enough to persuade them he might see their messages, even if he doesn’t respond directly.

Just his presence is enough to impact people. He thrilled students at Broad Run High School in Ashburn by attending one of the school’s home football games in October. And after Washington beat Tampa Bay in September, he ran around one-third of Raymond James Stadium high-fiving the Redskins fans congregated in the front row.

“He’s obviously very media savvy,” said Julie Partridge, associate professor of sport and exercise psychology at Southern Illinois University. “He does a tremendous job of connecting with the fans. He’s got a great smile. His endorsements. It seems like it was this perfect storm.”

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