How Taylor Heinicke and the Commanders became obsessed with Air Jordans


In late October, Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke was in the practice room after a game against the Green Bay Packers when an idea popped up. The win had given him a bonus – he wins $125,000 every time he plays at least 60% of the snaps in a win – and that day he unwittingly sparked what he now calls “a fun little tradition.” “.

In 2020, when Washington signed Heinicke as a midlife quarterback, he had two pairs of sneakers: a Vans and a Converse. His teammates needled him, telling him to get more swag. The following year he started buying Nike Air Jordans, and by fall he had about 20 pairs.

In the training room in October, Heinicke picked out a pair of green and yellow Oregon 5 Jordans, and in the weeks that followed, as he helped kickstart the Commanders’ season, he bought Jordans in the colors teams he beat: Georgetown 1 blue and white for Indianapolis, metallic green 4 for Philadelphia, Travis Scott 4 blue for Houston. After the Eagles upset, Heinicke also bought shoes for his offensive linemen, and after dominating the Texans, tight ends.

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“It’s kind of Taylor’s shtick right now…and his teammates are reacting,” coach Ron Rivera said.

Rivera laughed as he remembered a few defensive players yelling at Heinicke — “Hey, why don’t you take some from us?” — and said he recently “a little poked fun” at his quarterback by pulling out a pair of Gray Pine Green 1s and donning a Heinicke t-shirt.

By NFL standards, the Jordans are a relatively ordinary celebration. Some commanders have toasted milestones with a new home or a Rolls-Royce, but for Heinicke, whose base salary is $1.5 million, the splurges mostly sell for around $150. The quarterback’s shoe game, like his feisty style of play, seems to have endeared him to his teammates, and he’s joined a relatively select group of commanders – headlined by wide receivers Cam Sims and Dyami Brown, special teams ace Jeremy Reaves and defensive tackle. Daron Payne – who seriously collects Jordans.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a culture [in the locker room] because there are really only a few of us who go shoe shopping,” Brown said. He added that running back Antonio Gibson is “trying to keep up” but because he sometimes wears a pair of cheetah-print Adidas that “isn’t it” he doesn’t qualify. (Brown and quarterback Sam Howell both attended the University of North Carolina and received “player-exclusive” shoes because the brand’s namesake, Michael Jordan, also went there.)

In the commanders’ locker room, footwear preferences vary. Many players seem to enjoy the comfort of slides, and some leave plastic tags on their sneakers as a status symbol. Defensive end Chase Young likes to lift without shoes because it helps strengthen his once weak ankles. Veteran linebacker Jon Bostic said if he’s not on cleats, he’s on Crocs, and offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer, a climber, likes five-finger shoes. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste sometimes wears luxury fashion brand Off-White shoes, and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. browses Birkenstocks, Crocs and Jordans. Third-year safety Kam Curl said he bought a few pairs of shoes his rookie season, including all-white Air Force 1s, but none since because, he insisted, “I’m not not a sneakerhead.”

“I don’t really care about shoes,” he added, noting that no matter what he wears, he is confident. “I put that s— on.”

Sims, one of the Jordans collectors, said his father started his obsession. In a favorite baby photo, Sims wore 12 cherries, but growing up he could only get one pair of sneakers and one pair of basketball shoes a year. In high school, when his feet stopped growing, he started saving up his shoes, and his rookie year in the NFL, he said, he went on a spending spree, “getting all the shoes I didn’t. couldn’t get at the time”.

Now Sims has about 250 pairs. They’re spread around the closets of his house, his dad, mom, and cousins, and recently in the locker room he wore a pair of low-top Jordans he created with rapper Travis Scott, which usually go for around $1,200. .

“I’m just a shoe guy,” Sims said. “When you see a person, the first thing you notice is probably their feet, or their teeth, or their face. … I want you to see my shoes, so you’re like, ‘Ah, he’s got a nice pair of shoes on. ‘

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Wide receiver Curtis Samuel, who grilled a reporter earlier this season for wearing sandals that looked like “grill shoes,” said he doesn’t usually buy Jordans.

“I’m cheap,” he explained. But once in Miami, he visited Flight Club, an upscale sneaker consignment store. He bought a pair of Chicago Bulls 1 for around $550. Then, as he was packing his bags to return home to North Carolina, he couldn’t find them.

“I had to buy them again!” Samuel said. “I was a little upset, but it happens. I’m probably the only guy who [loses] sneakers.”

Practice squad wide receiver Marken Michel, who said he wears Uggs “every day,” recently made an exception. On Nov. 17, Founder’s Day of the historically black Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Michel wore a pair of red high-top Jordans, which he said he only bought because Brown “gave me a hard time with my shoes. “.

“Never!” Brown protested.

“He got every shoe,” Michel said of Brown. “So I went to get this.”

“Now we’re lying,” Brown said, rolling her eyes.

“I’m not going to lie,” said Michel, smiling. “I feel pretty cool in them.”

Brown accused Michel, who prides himself on being thrifty, of recently wearing Dior Jordan 1 Retro Lows, which can cost north of $10,000. Michel looked dismayed. Brown called Sims and Heinicke. Did they really believe, as Michel claimed, that these were his first pair of Jordans?

Heinicke frowned, walked over to his locker and pulled out a pair of high-tops., seeming to refute Michel’s assertion. In the shouts that followed – “You are all lying!” said Michel — it was becoming impossible to tell who was clowning around with whom. Brown wanted a reporter to think Michel was one of the hottest players on the team; Michel wanted to preserve his reputation for frugality.

Later, Heinicke told a reporter about Brown and Sims, “Don’t let those two fool you. These two have the most shoes on the team.

Last week, at a press conference, Heinicke joked that after that successful streak, he now had too many Jordans.

“I’m not going to answer that,” he said, smiling. If Washington is lucky, Heinicke’s tradition will continue and he will buy himself and his teammates Jordans for weeks to come.

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