ASHLAND, Va. | The transition started at a polished wood podium Ryan Kerrigan gripped so tightly his index fingers turned white.
A few feet away, his mother, Anita, cradled a folded Washington Redskins jersey bearing her son’s name. His father, Brendan, snapped a picture with his phone.
There wasn’t any pomp. No entourage. No Mike Shananan, Bruce Allen or Daniel Snyder in the auditorium, either. But this seemed to fit Kerrigan, an unassuming, soft-spoken defensive end from Purdue.
Less than 24 hours after the Redskins selected him with the No. 16 pick in the NFL Draft, Kerrigan arrived at Redskins Park Friday and started the change to a new organization and position.
“When the Redskins came up, it was like this is all perfect,” Anita Kerrigan said. “Everything fell the way it was supposed to fall.”
Added Brendan Kerrigan: “Sometimes you don’t get what you wish for. He did.”
After his pre-draft visit with the Redskins, Ryan Kerrigan returned home to Muncie, Ind., and told his mother, “I can really see myself there.” He didn’t say that about another team.
“I’m someone that’s going to give you all I have every play and that my first play is going to look the same as my last play,” Kerrigan said. “I’m going to go hard every play.”
Defensive end was where Kerrigan landed when he started contact football in fifth grade. But he’ll switch to outside linebacker with the Redskins. The chance to play opposite Brian Orakpo in Jim Haslett’s 3-4 defense was a major attraction.
After Kerrigan finished his senior season at Purdue, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Gary Emanuel told him he needed to prepare to play outside linebacker in the NFL. The 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss as he terrorized Big Ten offensive backfields weren’t enough.
“It’s different,” said Kerrigan, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 263 pounds. “You’re moving your body in ways you’re not used to. … I’ve made a lot of strides and am looking forward to improving even further.”
That improvement is needed on the Redskins’ defense, which ranked among the NFL’s worst teams against the run and pass last season.
While Kerrigan won’t rush the passer as much from the outside spot as he did at Purdue, he’s accustomed to drawing extra attention from blockers. Kerrigan has more speed than most defensive ends — he’s clocked a 4.7-second 40-yard dash — and swam competitively growing up. He jokes that was 80 pounds ago. But Anita Kerrigan said, “He was quite a butterflyer.”
Brendan Kerrigan, who play fullback and guard at Ball State, recalled conversations he and his wife had with their son’s football coaches at each level.
“We’d always ask the coach and they’d say, ‘He’s good,’ We’d say, ‘Are you sure?’” Brendan Kerrigan said. “We did the same thing at Purdue, ‘Are you sure?’ And with pro football, ‘Are you sure?’”
And as they sat in the front row of the auditorium Friday and watched their son at the podium starting his life’s biggest transition, they were sure. Finally.