After entering fall camp expected to compete with Curtis Underwood for the majority of the workload, Washington missed the first five games of 2010 due to a nagging hamstring injury that just wouldn't go away.
"It's been an uphill battle. I had to sit out the first half of the year with the hamstring injury," Washington said following Tuesday's practice. "It just kept lingering to the point where I had to sit out the first two months of the season."
Meanwhile, converted corner Dean Haynes and true freshman Mustafa Greene asserted themselves as the go to guys in the backfield by helping the Wolfpack to a 4-1 start. Five games through the season it looked as though Washington was the odd man out.
But, as is often the case during the course of any football season, things change. As Washington slowly got healthier and started practicing more, he began to work his way back into the lineup.
"It takes a while, because you've just been sitting on the side trying to be able to run," Washington said of his injury. "I do at least 40 plays a game now so I'm in good shape to go the whole game."
In his season debut against Boston College, Washington caught five passes for 28 yards and ran the ball twice in his 24 snaps.
When Dean Haynes suffered a concussion against Florida State, Washington found himself with an even bigger role in the Wolfpack offense. Against the Seminoles Washington tallied 23 yards on the ground and 22 more through the air.
The slow return culminated against Wake Forest, when Washington started for the first time in 2010 against the Deacons. Now Washington finds himself just where he thought he would be, at the top of NC State's depth chart.
"I was able to come back, I just had a chance to fight through it and earn my way to get some playing time and now I'm actually starting," he said.
While Washington hasn't put up big numbers in the running game since coming back from his injury, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays in the open field provides much needed versatility for NC State.
Despite seeing action in just five games, Washington has totaled 19 receptions for 135 yards. Tom O'Brien said Washington is simply the best option for NC State's backfield heading into Saturday's matchup with the Heels.
"Right now, being championship month, which November is, he's our most experienced player," he said Monday at his weekly press conference. "He has the knowledge to do the things we want to do and we think he gives us a better option and that's why we moved him up to number one on the depth chart."
Washington, now completely healthy, said he's ready to do whatever he needs to do Saturday to help NC State win.
"We're just trying to come out hard, every play for four quarters and show that we're the better team," he said. "We know that we have to win out to make it to the ACC Championship and that is our goal so we're just trying to come into this game focused and ready."