Seeing Missouri junior wide receiver L'Damian Washington 6'4" 195 back on the field on Tuesday reminded me of the extent of the transformation that I've observed in this young man since he first arrived at Missouri. Washington had missed several practices this spring with a hamstring injury, and having his talent and experience out there with the number one offense was a welcome addition.
Earlier in his Missouri career, Washington had the look of a young man who was under a lot of pressure. He was away from home and family, and he carried with him onto the field the burden to have immediate high-level success on the field. Success was eluding him, and his frustration was evident.
About a year ago, I noticed what appeared to me to be a different-looking football player. He was clearly having fun playing football, and the look of frustration had given way to an almost permanent smile. At that time, Washington had talked about his relationship with Christ, and a new attitude toward playing football. He had decided to put the team first, and to do whatever he could to help the team every day. The burden was gone.
On Tuesday afternoon, as Washington stood before me, there was a look of peace and joy on his face. The transformation continues.
"It's great to get back in there, and shake off some of the cobwebs," said Washington, who admitted to being a little rusty. At my urging, he went on to talk about his current state of mind. "Coming here at first, I was more to myself, and thinking about my family back home, not really being able to adjust to playing football. It was a big change, first time leaving home. I think right now, the coaches and the players welcome me in. I mean right now, this is as much my family right now here as I have back home. So, I mean it's all about just having fun with the guys, and joking around in the locker room, and joking with Coach Hill. I think that's the best part about college. And, that's what makes college football so great, that we're a family!"
Washington appears to be thriving in his element both on and off of the field with his family around him.
"Coach Pinkel and the coaches take that to heart, building a family atmosphere," said Washington. "I think that's what we have here………………………………………… Any time you're having fun doing something, you're going to do good at it………………………………………….. I think right now I'm in a happy place. I mean, I haven't felt this great in a long time. I think I'm at a place right now, like I'm at the perfect place."
Washington acknowledged that on the field, he and Marcus Lucas have each developed a special chemistry with James Franklin. He said that he and Marcus Lucas are on the same page with Franklin when they are on the field together.
There's also been a physical transformation. When Washington arrived at Missouri, he weighed less than 170 pounds. He said that come August, he's going to weigh over 200 pounds. He noted that he's reached double-digits in the weight room with the number of times he is able to bench press 225 pounds. Washington also reported a 4.34 forty, to go along with a 36" vertical jump.
What little I've seen of Washington on the practice field this spring, he appears to be more assertive, especially with the way that's he's attacking the football in the air. Now, he's going to have the opportunity to develop chemistry with Corbin Berkstresser.