Redskins tight end Niles Paul has already proven that he can do most everything necessary on a football field, changing positions at the NFL level and embracing more responsibility in his second season.
Already in his young NFL career, he has 10 receptions for 177 yards, split between the wide receiver and tight end positions. He also has two career rushes for six yards, a respectable 3.0 yards-per-carry average.
Taking over as the full-time kick returner midway through the season, he returned 14 career kickoffs for 298 yards for a 21.3 average. In coverage, he has 24 special teams tackles in two years, with a team-high five punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
His athletic versatility dates back to high school, when he was a star on the gridiron, hardwood and outdoor track. In basketball, Paul was among the Class A leaders in scoring and rebounding, averaging nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game as a senior.
In track, Paul won the 110-meter hurdles at the state meet as both a junior and a senior, finishing second in the 300-meter hurdles and fourth in the 100-meter dash as a senior. His 4 x 100-meter relay team also finished second. As a junior, he led the Vikings to the Class A state track title by winning four gold medals.
Individually, he captured the Class A titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and was part of all-class gold medal teams in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400-meter relays. Paul also won the Class A state title in the 300-meter hurdles as a sophomore.
He was also named a scholar athlete award winner in as a senior in 2007. As Paul told the cameras, he’s no dumb jock–maintaining a 3.6 GPA over the course of his high school career. Watch the video, below:
“From when I was a little boy, I couldn’t play if I had any C’s on my report card. Knowing that you’re actually learning something and bettering yourself, nobody can call me just a dumb jock. Because I know just as much as you do, if not more.”
Now, I’m not saying Paul didn’t spend time in the Omaha North High School library, but you have to love the B-roll of his friends visiting him while he studies alone in the library (0:34 mark). Good thing the cameras were there to catch that authentic social interaction.
In my experience, Paul is consistently one of the more thoughtful interviews in the Redskins’ locker room, and his intellect translates well to the football field.
Other coaches around the NFL have complimented Paul, head coach Mike Shanahan and tight ends coach Sean McVay on the speed of his transition to the tight end position from reciever. The transition is as cerebral as it is physical, and Paul remained an asset to the team throughout his first season of adjustment.
Let’s also not forget that he can do a flip while catching the football. That’s points for style and substance.