Washington has found a home

You wouldn't know that Calvin Washington never saw himself as a cornerback when he arrived in Columbia. His metamorphosis into Mizzou's brightest young cornerback spans two years and is a testament to Gary Pinkel's vision and Washington's determination.

When Calvin Washington came to Missouri in 2001, cornerback is not where he wanted to be. Special teams is not where he wanted to be. Washington wanted to be a receiver.

But receiver isn't where Gary Pinkel wanted Washington to be. Instead, he was strongly encouraged to become a cornerback and a special teams player.

"I really felt that wasn't the best move for me because I didn't have the chance to mature at wide receiver," he said.

Two years later, Washington wouldn't want to be anywhere else. After a redshirt year of hard work, he should enter this season as a starting cornerback.

In fact, Washington might be stealing Brad Smith's title as the team's hardest worker.

"He really dedicated himself," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. "He'd be out there doing extra footwork drills in the Devine building (the practice field) with no lights on. When everyone else was taking a break, he'd be in there working."

Two years ago, it would be hard to believe that Eberflus was talking about Washington, who lamented his time on special teams. He made only seven special teams tackles as one of only four true freshmen to play that season. But with only one returning defensive back on scholarship, Pinkel could not afford to keep a backup like Washington off the field.

"I really didn't mature at all," Washington said. "I was back and forth, I wasn't trusting my coaches, and I was feeling I should be in a different spot. It wasn't a good year for me."

It was clear that Washington was not ready to play at the level Pinkel needed him to. Washington had too many maturity issues to come back another year, so he spent last season as a redshirt.

"I've tried to lay it on the line as much as I could. I try to be the last person in the weight room, because I knew my team depended on me," Washington said. "I had to make a decision for myself that, ‘Hey, it's my time to step up.'"

And the defense could certainly use him. Washington steps into a secondary that gave up 282.6 passing yards per game, including 425 yards to Iowa State and 518 yards to Texas Tech.

Pinkel, for one, could use some relief. "I'm expecting big things out of Calvin," Pinkel said. "He really has matured a lot and we expect him to play at a high level."

Eberflus said because Washington still hasn't played cornerback in a game yet, it's hard to say how much his hard work will come to fruition. But Washington is going to make sure it does.

"Now I have to work even harder," he said. "It can't stop."

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