Practice Tour: Damien Washington

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. --- Damien Washington is inching closer to making a verbal commitment.

"I talked to my parents on Saturday after our scrimmage," Washington said. "They were saying I should commit to [North] Carolina, because I had a teammate get hurt that day at the scrimmage and they were saying if I do end up getting hurt, God forbid, [UNC] wouldn't just snatch my offer up.

"It's always been my dream school and it's all I've been talking about. It's a real good academic school and a good football team."

Washington, a 6-foot, 166-pound athlete, says he could actually make a commitment as early as this week.

"I talked to Coach [Mike] Newsome today [about possibly committing] for a little bit, because I haven't seen him since Saturday when I talked to my parents," Washington said. "I'm going to talk to him a little bit more about it."

To say Newsome, who became A.L. Brown's head football coach during the offseason after spending eight years at Matthews (N.C.) Butler and winning two NCHSAA 4AA Titles, has experience handling recruitments would be an understatement. A countless number of Newsome's players continued their football careers on the college level, many at BCS schools – including UNC.

"The biggest advice that I have given him is to understand that North Carolina – even though they're going through some trying times right now – is going to hire the best person for the job," Newsome said. "Coach [Everett] Withers I respect immensely and I think he's going to do a tremendous job there. Whether they keep Coach Withers on or hire somebody else, North Carolina will have a good head coach.

"I think a lot of people in the media are thinking that college coaches are going to be scared off from the North Carolina job, because of what happened with Coach [Butch] Davis. But, I don't see that happening. I see them getting a good coach in there. I see that program moving forward.

"Too, if you're planning to stay in North Carolina throughout your life, there's not much better than a Carolina degree. I think that's going to say a lot in [Washington's] determining factor."

Despite the program's uncertainty, Washington says if he commits to UNC it will be firm and he won't visit elsewhere.

"Once I make a commitment, it's a commitment," Washington said. "I don't plan on de-committing unless something really goes wrong. But, it's still a good school and I'd like to go there. If I commit, I plan on sticking with it."

UNC, which is the only Division I-A school to offer him a scholarship thus far, is recruiting Washington as an athlete.

"They said I'm a good athlete and they'll find a place for me to play whether it's on the offensive side or defensive side – maybe even special teams," Washington said. "I want to play wherever is going to give me some playing time. I'll play wherever."

"I think Coach Withers and those guys believe he can go over and play corner or safety," Newsome said. "I really believe that he could do that.

"He's athletic enough that he could play any position on the football field. He has the attitude of if you told him to go play guard, he'd go play guard. He could play safety or corner, but I think running back really, truly might be his true position, because he's so dang fast but he needs to be a little more physical between the tackles – but that's just something he hasn't done yet."

Under former head coach Ron Massey, Washington was primarily used as a running back and a reserve quarterback and defensive back.

Although Newsome won't have Washington play just one position, he plans on keeping him solely on the offensive side of the ball.

"He's a great football player," Newsome said. "We're going to try to get the ball in his hands in a multitude of ways – him at running back, him at receiver, him at H-back, him at slot back."

Newsome will also be counting on Washington's leadership this season.

"He does the right thing on the field, he does the right thing off the field, he's a positive person, he's someone that the younger guys can look up to," Newsome said.

Given Newsome's accomplishments and Brown's tradition – not to mention the team went 12-2 and won the South Piedmont Conference last season – expectations are high this coming season.

"My expectations are never going to change," Newsome said. "I think once you get a chance to win one state championship and then go back-to-back, that's going to be your goal – and that's always going to be our goal… Our goal is to win a state championship and we have the athletes and we have the personnel that that could possibly be done."

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