Washington Emerging As Pack's Utilityman

He's a flashy wide receiver with the speed to score from anywhere on the field, with a self-confident bounce in his step and a smile never far from his face.

He came in to NC State and dubbed himself "Roy," predicting that he'd win Rookie of the Year honors in the ACC last year. With such a reputation and a thin frame, one might think that Richard Washington is a wideout who would prefer to take a pass and skip out of bounds, forsaking contact for the opportunity to fight another down. One would be very wrong.

The 5-11, 171-pound Washington is quickly emerging as the conference's best pound-for-pound blocking receiver. After posting only five knockdown blocks all of last season, he collected four against Wake Forest alone. He is NC State's leader in knockdowns among non-offensive linemen -- including a terrific crackback on UNC linebacker Fred Sparkman in the fourth quarter of the Pack's loss to the Tar Heels.

"It felt good," said Washington, smiling. "It felt good to knock somebody out bigger than me. Because the coaches always tell me, ‘You're 120 pounds and you knocked him out.' So it feels good.

"However many balls I catch, as long as I get the job done on the perimeter and as long as we score a touchdown, I'm all right."

The Ft. Myers, Fla., native has emerged as the Wolfpack's jack-of-all-trades. In addition to his block against Sparkman, Washington recorded 105 all-purpose yards against the Tar Heels. In addition to grabbing three receptions for 34 yards, he also rushed for 71 yards on just four attempts, including a clutch 39-yarder on the Pack's final drive. He also beat several UNC defenders to recover a fumble by State tight end John Ritcher deep in Wolfpack territory, then later ran down Larry Edwards to save a touchdown, even though UNC scored on the following play.

After grabbing 44 passes for 500 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, Washington is NC State's leader in receiving yardage (173) and ranks second on the team in receptions (16). He has run for 127 yards on just seven attempts, averaging an amazing 18.1 yards per carry.

To what does he attribute his all-around play?

"Just working hard and dedication," said Washington. "I just want to come out this year and show everybody what Richard Washington is all about. It's showing, but I've just got to keep it up every game."

As for his impressive blocking, Washington admits that he picked up some tips and techniques from watching Jerricho Cotchery, the two-time ACC first-teamer who is now with the New York Jets. Cotchery was an accomplished downfield blocker, and Washington saw how NFL scouts took notice of that.

"Watching Jerricho and seeing how he left and went to the NFL, blocking was a big point into it [for him]," Washington said. "So I just take after him, and I'll just keep on blocking downfield."

All season long, the Wolfpack has had a disturbing difficulty in converting red-zone visits into touchdowns.

Part of the problem may lie in the fact that NC State loves to spread the field between the 20-yard lines, but with limited territory in the red zone, opposing teams are taking away what the Pack does best. Washington said State is working on keeping teams off balance when it gets close to the goal line.

"We need seven [points] instead of three – every time," Washington said. "But we'll keep on pounding and keep on getting it down in the red zone. We've got to score; that's the main point.

"They're crowding the box, and we've just got to mix the plays up. We've got to come outside on the goal line, then try to come inside. But we're going to be all right."

Washington said that the team is looking forward to the trip to College Park to face Maryland Saturday. He pointed out that the Pack has had fourth-quarter leads in each of the past four years, so it's a matter of finishing the deal.

On the plus side the Wolfpack offense appears to be finding the groove. Red-shirt junior quarterback Jay Davis has thrown for 482 yards while connecting on 35 of 43 passes in the past six quarters. In that span, the 'Pack has put up a staggering 907 offensive yards, boosting the confidence of the entire unit.

"We're clicking," Washington said. "We've felt like we can do it against any team. We just practice hard every week and come out and say, ‘We can be a very good offense.' So we've just got to keep it up every week."

With Washington catching passes, rushing the ball, laying blocks downfield and doing anything else that the offense needs, he and the rest of the Pack attack appear to be off and running.

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