Last week was a good one for 2018 Solana Beach (Calif.) Santa Fe Christian athlete Demitri Washington. On Wednesday, he and his Eagles basketball team beat Vista Murrieta, 68-57, advancing to the second round of the Division III playoffs. Earlier that day, he'd gotten some even better news: He scored his first Power 5 offer, from California.
"Yeah, it was an awesome day," Washington laughed.
Washington's head coach -- Jon Wallace -- texted Washington earlier that day, summoning him to the weight room, because the Golden Bears wanted to hear from him. Wallace handed Washington his phone and said, 'Call this number.'
"I called, and it was coach Tony Tuioti, the outside linebackers coach," said Washington. "We talked for 10 minutes, just to see how I was, to talk about the [basketball] game, and then, we talked about my fit, and how they saw me fit, and how I thought I fit."
Then, Tuioti handed the phone to defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro.
"We also talked about fit, what I wanted to do with my skill set, and how I felt I was at my best, playing, and I said I felt like I'm best when I'm rushing the passer," said Washington, who made 45 tackles last season (33 solo) with 13.0 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries, one pass deflected and two fumble recoveries. "We agreed. Then, they gave the phone to coach [Justin] Wilcox, and coach Wilcox made the final statement: He said, 'We want to offer you.' I couldn't believe it."
The process was very much like a job interview, a tack that the new staff has taken repeatedly with its offerees -- the whole of upper management has to sign off on a hire, or, in this case, an offer.
"It was crazy, kind of wild, because I hadn't even spoken to them that much," Washington said. "It's mostly been through my coach. The day before, coach Tuioti talked to my head coach for 30 minutes about me, asking him questions, like what he thought, what kind of player I was, and things like that. It went from there, and it just came out of nowhere."
Washington, at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, isn't just an ace linebacker. On offense, he completed one of two passes for four yards, rushed 68 times for 432 yards and six touchdowns, and caught four balls for 43 yards.
"Honestly, I'm a defensive guy, and I love defensive coaches, and that's what's super-exciting," Washington said. "That's what I'm excited to see ... They see me as a hybrid D-end/outside linebacker, so play the boundary on rush downs, play flats, get out there, catch a few sweeps, get to the outside; and on passing downs, move in and be like a rusher."
This staff is nothing if not meticulous in its vetting process, particularly on defense, and especially with academics. With Washington, there's no worry: He has offers of financial aid from Columbia, Cornell, Darmouth, Brown and Yale, and a scholarship offer to Army. With those offers, Washington boasts a predictably impressive 4.39 GPA, and is particularly interested in history. He's taking Advanced Placement U.S. History, currently. He's also taking Advanced Placement Calculus, AP Biology and AP English -- the junior year schedule of a typical, non-athlete Berkeley-bound student.
Apart from Cal being Washington's first Power 5 offer, it's an offer to stay close to home. As the son of a truck driver from New Jersey and a nurse from San Diego, Washington would be the first in his family to go to college, so staying close to home, where his parents could watch, is a big plus.
"Being a California kid, I've always watched Cal play, and they're always on TV down here, so it's definitely exciting, being able to stay in your home state, and having your parents be able to come see your games," Washington said. "The atmosphere up there is always awesome. It's an exciting experience. Growing up, my favorite player was always Marshawn Lynch, so it's exciting. He went to Cal, and now, I could do the same thing. That's definitely exciting."
Of course, Lynch does, upon occasion, show up at practices.
"I heard he comes back, so that's exciting," Washington said. Should he meet up with Beast Mode, Washington said, "I think I'd say something, probably make a joke and ask him for some skittles or something, and we'll see what goes on from there."
Washington himself will be coming to campus in May, after his appearance at the NIKE's The Opening Regional in Oakland.