'A way for me to get away from ball': Inside Taylor Heinicke's LEGO passion

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'A way for me to get away from ball': Inside Heinicke's LEGO love originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It started because Taylor Heinicke wanted to do something other than watch TV.

Back during the Washington Commanders' OTAs in late-May and early-June, Heinicke was searching for a "therapeutic" activity he could commit to once he handled his daily football responsibilities, one that didn't involve a screen.

It was at that point that he noticed one of his friends had gotten into LEGO building, so Heinicke decided to give the hobby a shot.

Since then, he's lunged headfirst into the pursuit like it's a FedEx Field pylon in a playoff game.

"I've always been interested in building stuff," Heinicke, who aspired to be an architect as a kid, told NBC Sports Washington on Tuesday. "So I started buying some sets and I have four big sets now."

While Heinicke polished off two different Batmobiles in the earlier portion of the Commanders' offseason, his output really increased during the five-plus week stretch of free time that players got before reporting to the facility in late-July for the opening of the club's training camp.

It was in that span that Heinicke established a new morning routine: He'd wake up, venture off on a long walk, eat breakfast upon his return — and, at last, pick up his latest project.

The 29-year-old didn't start small, either. In addition to knocking out two builds of Batman's famous vehicle, Heinicke completed a 7,541-piece Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, which is so enormous that "it's just sitting" on Heinicke's kitchen counter. Heinicke also finished a 6,785-piece AT-AT, another iconic machine from the beloved movie franchise.

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As he was handling the construction of those latter monstrosities, Heinicke would send updates of his progress on social media. The response to his posts legitimately shocked him.

"The funniest thing about it is that's probably the biggest hit I ever got on Instagram," he said. "I was getting so many DMs like, 'Keep going!' 'This is great!' I didn't know it would be such a hit."

Heinicke isn't too ashamed of his zeal for the bricks, either. Sure, he catches heat from various people about it, but when he goes on dates and his potential partners ask what he enjoys aside from his primary occupation, he'll admit his LEGO devotion.

"They're like, 'What do you like to do?' and I'm like, 'I like to build LEGOs,'" Heinicke explained. "But I think it's cool. It's just who I am and you either accept it or not."

Much to Heinicke's delight, he recently discovered he's not the only one on Washington's roster with this particular avocation.

Sam Cosmi, the Commanders' giant right tackle, has been fond of the tiny blocks for years and years. The Texas native has a collection of sets at his family home and has gathered a second "stash" on the east coast that he intends to continuously bolster.

Monitoring both has proven to be stressful, unfortunately.

"I told my parents that, 'No child will touch them,'" Cosmi said of his LEGO in the Lone Star State. "There was one day where they had one of my cousins touch them and I was so mad and they messed up everything. I had to put everything back together. It took hours."

Much like the man he blocked for in 2021, Cosmi is a fan of Star Wars products; an Imperial Star Destroyer represents his next lengthy challenge. That one will probably have to wait until the team's 2022 schedule is done, however, because of its size.

But don't fret, because he's currently busy with a separate task.

"I'm slowly but surely putting together Thor's hammer right now, so I'll go downstairs after a day and open a bag and put it together," Cosmi said.

Cosmi is even less bashful about the pastime than Heinicke is. The lineman, who recently got engaged, believes the craft should boost his overall rating on a scale of 1-to-10 attractiveness by "at least two points."

"You've got to right?" he asked, not necessarily waiting for an answer.

Taylor Heinicke

Heinicke wasn't lying; the Falcon is parked in his kitchen

Eventually, Heinicke hopes to create a room that can house his array of sneakers and his LEGO sets. He also wouldn't mind if there were more Marvel-related options for him to take on (the Infinity Gauntlet hand that is presently available isn't large enough for his taste).

And though Heinicke does see an overlap between his job and his newfound fascination — "Everything is attention to detail. Little things have to be right in order to be successful," he said of quarterbacking and LEGO-ing — it's the fact that he can completely turn off the athlete part of his mind when he enters assembling mode that he appreciates most.

"It's a way for me to get away from ball," he said.