Washington Having Breakout Season

Damien Washington is making Everett Withers' first recruiting move as head coach look like a good one.

In one of his initial recruiting decisions as interim head coach, Withers offered Washington a scholarship, which was accepted a couple of weeks later. The offer became the 6-foot, 166-pound athlete's first - and remains his only - Division I-A offer. At the time, he was a little known prospect with mediocre junior season totals – outside of a 9.7-yard rushing average – while playing for tradition rich Kannapolis (N.C.) Brown, and lacked a true collegiate position.

This season, though, in just three games Washington has emerged as one of the most dangerous in-state playmakers. He is averaging three touchdowns a game, but even more impressive is the different ways he's scored – five rushing, two receiving, one passing, and one on a kickoff return.

"This year, I guess they rely more on me and try to put the ball in my hands," Washington said. "I'm not necessarily the only person on the team, because everybody else is scoring."

During his junior season, Washington was a second string quarterback and tailback. An injury to Travis Riley, who's currently a freshman at UNC, pushed Washington into the featured tailback role. But when Riley returned Washington resumed his reserve responsibilities.

"They would throw me in there for a couple of plays at quarterback and usually I'd run the ball but there were a couple of plays I'd throw it," Washington said. "Mainly, I'd play running back. [When Riley returned], I played a little less, because it was [Riley's] job. I was still working in the mix, but it was more him, then somebody else, and then I'd go in for one series."

In addition to increased reps – which doesn't seem to matter too much since he's averaging 17 yards an offensive touch – Washington credits newly hired head coach Mike Newsome and his offensive system for the early season success. Newsome arrived at Brown after eight seasons, a 93-17 record, and two state championships at Matthews (N.C.) Butler.

"I give him a lot of credit, but it's a team effort," Washington said. "I can't give him all the credit, because some of it is blocking and me making a play. But, he's the one calling the plays and coming up with the game plan."

Opponents have taken notice to Washington's abilities. After putting together back-to-back 100-yard performances in the first two contests – including 196 yards on four carries in the second game – Washington was held to 22 yards on five carries and was an obvious focal point of the defense during the third game. Thus, Newsome has had to find creative ways to use his star playmaker.

"Last game, I really didn't do a whole lot," Washington said. "I threw that first pass – and that was for a touchdown – and I caught a pass. Everything else, I didn't do – it was my teammates."

Washington says he doesn't mind being a decoy.

"Either way, if we win, I'll be happy," Washington said. "… I just want to win a state championship." Thus far, winning hasn't been a problem. The Wonderers are 3-0 and have defeated opponents by an average of 30 points.

Despite the success, Washington says he has not received phone calls from coaches outside of UNC. And, as far as he knows, none have inquired about him.

"Wake Forest has sent me little stuff, but it's not really been about football," Washington said.

Regardless, Washington plans on sticking to his verbal commitment to UNC.

"Carolina is a good place to play football and has good academics, and that's all that really matters," Washington said.

"But, I don't really know what's destined for the future. I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing and see what happens. But I plan on sticking to my commitment, because Carolina wanted me before I even started playing like this."

On Saturday, Washington attended his first UNC football game.

"It was a good atmosphere," Washington said. "The team played hungry. It was a great atmosphere and something I want to play in."

Prior to the game, Washington had lunch in the football building where he had conversations with the coaching staff.

"They said they were glad that I was up there and can't wait for me to come up there and be a part of their tradition," Washington said.

Troy Douglas recruits the Kannapolis area for UNC and was Washington's initial contact. However, recently Washington's communication with the staff has moved more to Withers and Charlie Williams, UNC's wide receivers coach.

Since Williams has been communicating with him most lately, Washington, who was offered originally as an athlete, believes UNC is leaning towards wide receiver as his collegiate position.

"I like wide receiver," Washington said. "But if I go up there and they need me to play defense, I'll do whatever."

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