Against Iowa State last weekend, Fabian Washington had 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, 4 solo tackles, 2 of those being for losses. For a senior, that might be a career game, but for a true freshman that wasn't even a starter, that's one hell of a start. It was that performance along with his opportunistic play thus far this season that pushed him ahead of Pat Ricketts. As you would expect with any young player, this time is a nervous time for him. "I am excited (about being a starter), but I know come this weekend, I will have some jitters." Fabian said.
"There's a lot of pressure that comes with that though. All eyes are on you and I just want to go out there and perform."
Though the reputation of the blackshirts have taken a bit of a black eye recently, it hardly diminishes what the tradition of the starting defensive unit represents. For any player to be named such, it's not just a newfound pressure, but an honor from achieving something so many have desired. "It's a great accomplishment getting one of those." Washington stated. "This is what I wanted, but I just didn't know it was going to come this soon."
Though Washington might be taken back some by the rapidity of his rise, for those that have watched him play and especially, those that have actually played along side, Fabian may be young, but all agree on just how talented he is. "He reminds me of Keyou sometimes." DeJuan Groce stated referring to his former teammate. "He's that athletic to go out there and play. He's got a lot of raw talent and I don't know what he is going to do after a couple of years, but he's a great commodity for our team." Coach Craig Bohl gave his opinion on what makes Fabian as good as he is despite his youth. "He has great speed and change of direction and he's got very good ball skills. To play as a true freshman is not easy to do, but we felt like this was his time to step up and play more."
Much of Fabian's success leads us to a comment Groce made about Washington's aggressiveness. "He's not afraid to go after the ball. He goes after it and if he misses, so what, he just goes after the ball carrier." That type of aggressiveness leads to pass break-ups and interceptions and as Fabian said, that's what it's all about. "That is the way I have always played. I don't like padding my stats (with tackles). I like getting the interceptions and pass-break-ups. That's what I came here for."
For any true freshman to finally and even suddenly find himself in the role of starter, the pressure mounts, because as former Husker, Damon Benning once said, there's a big difference from spelling the man and actually being the man. With that pressure, talent is one thing, but a maturity has to come with it or those mental mistakes indicative of youth become pervasive. Fabian said that his maturity on the field has been helped tremendously from the starting cornerback on the other side, DeJuan Groce. "Without him, I wouldn't be number one right now." Fabian said. "He's helped me so much. He's always talked about how to get better, how he got better and just gave me advice when he could."
This weekend, Nebraska faces a foe that perhaps any other time might be considered another tune-up or a game just good enough to keep in rhythm, continue to develop depth and maybe even pad a few stats. Now however, coming off of two straight losses, this game has significantly more meaning. "We have to get back." Fabian said. "We lost a lot in the last couple of weeks like the AP poll streak and now, in this game, we have to get it back."
And what, if anything will slate the appetite of the media that the players feel have unfairly drenched them in criticism? "A 7 or 14 point victory won't do." Washington stated. "Not in this game. In this game, we have to win big. Nobody will believe we are back unless we do."
It's not easy being young. The brashness of youth lends itself to indecision, immaturity and mistakes are all part of the process. Try being young and thrown onto the national stage as a starter for one of the biggest programs in the country. Yeah, Fabian has had his time on the field, but before, he was considered the talented upstart, the capable back-up and a "potential" star. Now, it's game time, he's got a light squarely on him and whatever pressure there was has at the very least, doubled. For now though, it doesn't phase Fabian as he sticks to a very simplified but accurate philosophy. "We just need to go out there and win." Fabian said. "We just need to play our game and go out there and win."