Quentin Groves has been with the Raiders for only a couple of months and he has already made quite an impression on quite a few fans. If you follow him on Twitter, you may know just what I am talking about.
The Raiders acquired the former second round pick in a trade from the Jaguars the day before the draft just under two months ago, and it seems that no sooner did he step off the plane but he had a plan to win the hearts of the Raider Nation.
Just suiting up in Silver and Black was a big first step. According to Groves, he hadn't been a Raider for two weeks and he already had over a hundred more followers and they were all Raider fans.
Now, I have to tell you, I don't use Twitter in my personal life. I use it solely to keep up with the sports world and Raider fans. But what Groves has been doing through Twitter has really brought the fan out in me.
His first gesture came a little over a month ago when he 'Tweeted' he was going to see a movie at a specific theatre at a specific time and asked who wanted to come with him. Now, I don't know exactly how many Raider fans he had following him at that time, but I know it was a lot. He initially said he would pay for the first five fans to respond, but the response was so overwhelming that he raised the number to 25. But when he got to the theatre, there were 40 Raider fans waiting to see a movie with him. Heck, if I were available, I probably would have been there too. I would bet that most of them would have been cool with paying their own way into the movie just to hang out with the Raiders' newest linebacker. But Groves paid for all of them anyway. And at today's movie prices, that tab was probably around $500. An expensive movie date to be sure. But I would say that five bills was among the most important he has ever spent. The fans certainly think so.
"It's been a great showing," says Groves. "That's what I love. It's a fun thing, it's a fun deal to get out with [the fans], whatever we're doing."
This kind of interaction and fan outreach is something that was commonplace with old Raider teams back in the early days. The rest of the league saw those players as renegades and "the criminal element." But to the fans, they were the ultimate good guys -- guys you could hang out with and have a drink at the bar after a game. Guys who were approachable in everyday life and were as gracious to the fans as the fans were to them. I initially thought that Quentin had to be following that model with his open movie going invitation. Heck, before I had a chance to ask him about it Wednesday, I figured he would at least give the usual variation of 'I always liked/respected those old Raider teams and players' but he surprised me with his honesty.
"I never knew about the history or what they did before," Groves says. "I'm just doing something that helps me to fit in and helps the fans too."
The thing is, he doesn't have to know the history to share the same ideals. Those guys back then didn't have an example to follow either. They just did it because that is who they were. And the fans don't forget.
Going to see a movie with a bunch of Raider fans was just the start too. A few weeks later, he gave out his email address and said that anyone who wanted an autographed picture should give him their address and he would send one out. In the end, he sent out 269 autographed pictures, including one for yours truly (see the above picture). That is a lot of pen work. And when I asked him why he did it, all he could tell me was, "Just something that I wanted to do."
If it weren't so genuine, it would at very least be extremely smart.
That kind of fan-to-player relationship is nearly non-existent in today's NFL. Most fans only get to see their favorite players at charity events or autograph signings which the team requires the players to attend. So when a player goes out of his way to connect with fans, the first thought is that someone must have given him some sound, stern advice about getting the fans on your side. But Groves claims that this was all his idea with little outside influence.
This is also the first time he has ever done anything quite like this for the fans. Although he has always made the effort.
"I did something in Jacksonville but couldn't follow up on it because I was so busy trying to get used to the league so couldn't follow up on the autograph thing. I never did anything like this at Auburn but at Auburn whenever I had someone who wanted my autograph, I never left one person out. No matter if time was up or something else was going on, I never left one person out."
Well, Raider fans, if you want to be among those not left out, you may want to follow him on Twitter yourself. The next thing on the table is an autographed jersey once he reaches a certain milestone of followers. I don't want to go and give out his stipulations though, I will let him make that known. At this point, just the gesture is enough. Besides, if you haven't seen the pictures of his baby boy he posted today, you are really missing out.
It is good to see the Raiders have another player whose focus is on the four F's:
Family, Friends, Fans, and Football.
To follow Quentin on Twitter, his handle is @QuentinGroves52
To follow me (far less rewarding), my handle is @LeviDamien
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