“Danny Redskins,” as he’s known around town, knows he goes beyond the boundaries of casual fandom, but the love can be traced back to childhood memories of watching games with his grandfather. He still has a display made out of an old Redskins helmet given to him by his grandfather when he was 3. He said he thinks it might have seen some action on the gridiron on account of its dings.
“My grandfather was a huge Redskins fan,” he said. “It’s got to be one of my prized possessions.”
Danny also has a different Redskins helmet, an official one he bought himself, that sits in his home in a glass case. He feels a connection to his youth and his grandfather when he roots for his favorite team.
For Danny, who grew up in Bridgeport, Conn., it’s less about where he came from and more about carrying on a tradition. He said he has pictures of himself as a young boy of 3 with Redskins paraphernalia and garb.
To be fair, though, he said he gets just as much of a charge from rooting against the Dallas Cowboys. To the uninitiated, this might seem confusing, but think of the Redskins and the Cowboys like the Hatfields and McCoys, only with less death.
“I like two teams,” he said, “the Redskins and whoever plays the Cowboys.”
Danny recounted the details of a recent preseason game like a man telling war stories. He spoke highly of the addition of RGIII to his team and always uses first-person pronouns when talking about the team.
Danny grew up in Bridgeport, Conn. and admits he was accustomed to city life.
“I grew up in the city,” he said. “When I came to Florida, time stood still.”
The city life didn’t offer an opportunity to play football, though.
“I played a lot of baseball,” he said. “I played pee wee’s minors, majors; I made varsity my freshman year. Loved to play baseball.”
He gets a little bit of vicarious thrill playing the Beacon’s Pigskin Pick ’em League, which Danny started playing when he came back to the island 12 years ago.
The first time he moved to the area was with his parents, who came to North Port when he was a sophomore in high school.
But he had to go all the way to Maine to find a reason to come to Boca Grande.
He’d been working since he was 13, when he started stocking shelves in an Italian deli called Sorrento’s.
“I’ve always been in customer service,” he said. “I know what it’s like to earn a buck making people happy.”
After moving, and after graduating from Venice High School, he went to work for the Olde World Cheese Shop on U.S. 41. He worked there for nine years until an uncle in Richmond, Maine told him about an opportunity at the Sea Dog Brewing company, a micro brewery and restaurant in Brunswick.
“I’d been working the same job for nine years,” he said. “I wanted to explore and do something else.”
So he took a position as a cook at the Sea Dog and met his future wife, Kimberly. She had been working during the seasons at the Pink Elephant and was spending her summers in Maine working at the Sea Dog. She told him about Boca Grande.
It must have been a fairly compelling description because he and a friend, Brandon, moved down and took positions at the Gasparilla Inn, working maintenance. Brandon only lasted a few months, but before leaving he joked that he’d probably be able to find Danny working at the Inn in 10 years.
Danny was already prepared for working outdoors in the summer heat, after all, having lived here before and having worked food service.
“Working in a kitchen or working outside,” he said, “it’s all the same.”
Anyone who’s ever worked in the downright tropical heat of an average restaurant’s back-of-the-house can concur.
Sure enough, 13 years later, he’s still smiling about his work at the Inn.
“The great thing about working maintenance is that every day you do a different job,” Danny said. “In season we’re working with the guests, and in the summer we have other projects, getting ready for the next season.”
He started as a temporary hire, but when his employers saw how hard he worked and got along with everyone, they let him stay on through season and beyond.
He said he loves working with the crew over at the Inn.
“It’s a team concept,” Danny said. “It takes more than one guy, you know?”
He worked nights for the first seven years, but quiet, starlit nights you might imagine are few and far between.
From setting up and tearing down weddings and functions, to plumbing and construction projects, to maintenance at the Innlet on the waterfront, which he said always stays busy, there was never time to sit around and listen to crickets chirping.
Finally he asked to work different hours so he could spend more time with his kids, Joshua and Nicholas, who were getting older.
Joshua is 7 and Nicholas will be 12 in September. They are true Boca Grande boys, having gone to the Boca Grande Child Care Center until they were 5, then straight into the Munchkin program designed to get them ready for kindergarten and first grade.
Nicholas attended The Island School until he’d completed the third grade, then attended Vineland Elementary. He graduated this last year. Joshua also attends Vineland.
Nicholas played soccer for the Englewood Rays and he’s taking a break, but Danny had a hopeful glint in his eyes when asked if Nicholas might play some football.
“I’m hoping he’ll want to play Pop Warner for Englewood,” he said.
They’re both like fish, he said, always in the water at the beach or the pool. Danny and Kimberly try to set aside Sundays for the beach when no one’s working.
They also like to head to the dog park on San Casa in Englewood with their chocolate Labrador, Moose (so named because of the moose-sized paws he had at a young age), and their chocolate dachshund, Bubba.
Danny said the decision to come to Boca Grande was a great one. He was happy at the Sea Dog Brewing Co., but the opportunity here has been wonderful. He and Kimberly both love their jobs, at the Inn and at the Boca Bay Pass Club, respectively, and the island has been great for the boys.
He also mentioned the view coming over the bridges every morning. It’s an image that’s hard to ignore and which has probably struck everyone on the island at times, but might seem all the more amazing to a guy who grew up in the city.
He has a lot of family in the area, too. His parents, Vinnie and Linda, and a sister, Jennifer, live close by in North Port.
Pretty much any of them could confirm how serious he is about his team. But no one knows it better than Jennifer.
“She came over once with a boyfriend she wanted me to meet,” he said, “and when he walked in the door he saw my Redskins helmet and said, ’Man, I hate the Redskins.’ My sister looks at me while my boys got up and went in the other room.
“I said, ’You can leave now.’”
His future plans include a trip to Washington to see his team play at home. As he put it, that’s kind of a bucket list thing. In the mean time he said he’ll keep taking trips to the beach with his family, to the dog park with Moose and Bubba and catching the Redskins where he can, whether it’s at home or at a nearby away game.
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