ASHBURN, Va. - If you think Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington looks like a maniac on the football field, imagine the scene when he was watching his alma mater, Penn State, beat Wisconsin on Saturday.
"Did you see that game? Oh, my gosh. It was crazy," said Arrington, his eyes as wide as saucers. "I was so proud to be a Nittany Lion. That was unreal watching that on television. I felt like I was at the game. I'm sitting there running around my house. I'm pushing my brother out of the way and stuff like that, jumping up. I was calling out audibles and everything."
Then Arrington got to wondering: Why aren't NFL players able to retain the unbridled enthusiasm they felt as college players? That night, when the defense held a players-only meeting on the eve of the Redskins' game against Philadelphia, Arrington stood and appealed for a school spirit revival.
"Bring out that cat that was at Ohio State or that guy that was at A&M or Arizona," Arrington said. "Just have fun playing the game."
Arrington even came up with a nickname for the defense, although it wasn't very original.
"We're "the U.' The defensive unit, it's "the U,' " he said. "It's kind of cool."
Kind of cool, but also already used by players from the University of Miami.
"Whatever," Arrington said. "Your U. Our U. "The U.' "
Several players spoke at meetings Saturday night and before the game Sunday. Assistant coach Gregg Williams suggested it, telling his veterans it was a "good time for someone to step up and talk."
The curious fact is that Arrington chose to do so.
The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker had only recently worked his way back into the starting rotation after beginning the season disgruntled and on the bench. Arrington had no idea how much he would play against the Eagles, but the unlikely combination of Williams and Penn State triggered him to address his teammates for only the third time in his six-year career.
"It's from the heart if I give it," Arrington said. "It's not ceremonial."
Arrington covered several topics, including the saga of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, whose suspension threatened to overshadow the game.
"You hear about all the things surrounding the guy from Philly," Arrington said. "It was like, the headline will read "They couldn't do it without him' if we won, and "They can do it without him' if they won. It's sad that for a such a big game the attention was somewhere else. I wanted to make sure that as a unit it didn't distract us."
Arrington also used the forum to address his situation, telling teammates that he didn't want to be a distraction.
"Whether I start or whether I don't, it's about this team, it's about this unit, and we need to be together," said Arrington, who learned the next day he would be starting the game.
The talk might even have given Arrington a boost, as he tied for the team high with 10 tackles in the 17-10 win over the Eagles and Washington's 5-3 record has him thinking about his playoff debut. The Redskins play Tampa Bay (5-3) on Sunday.
But the topic that seemed to stick with his teammates the most was Arrington's plea to bring back the college feel.
"When we were in college, everybody's jumping around," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "You're excited, you're playing because you love it, and you want to bring that same intensity to the game."
Asked why the college enthusiasm wanes once players get to the NFL, Arrington cited the big paychecks, the distractions of grown-up life and free agency, which has players bouncing from city to city with no chance to bond.
"Guys aren't sure they're going to be with a team," Arrington said. "It's hard to have the inner love for the franchise."