Donald Washington Appreciates Being a Buckeye

Redshirt junior Donald Washington was yet another Jim Tressel "sleeper recruit" when he came to Ohio State from Indianapolis Franklin Central. He quickly made his mark in his second year as a Buckeye and now is firmly entrenched as a starting cornerback. Bill Greene caught up with Washington at a youth football camp and filed this report.

Ohio State, under Jim Tressel, is becoming famous for taking unheralded high school players and turning them into stars. It appears Donald Washington is on the verge of being that type of player.

Washington, 6-foot and 195-pounds, will enter the 2008 season as a sure starter at cornerback for the Buckeyes. Not bad for a two-star recruit out of Indianapolis Franklin Central. Washington is a key piece of what Ohio State hopes to accomplish this season and he couldn't be more positive regarding this edition of the Buckeyes.

"The sky is the limit for this team in 2008," Washington proclaimed recently at the Lexington [Oh] youth football camp. "We can be as good as we want to be. As hard as everybody's working, I'm expecting big things out of our team. We know what it takes to win, but we want to win it all this year. We've been pretty close the past two years, but now it's time to finish the job right."

Washington has been surprised at the level of passion surrounding the Ohio State football program. After playing high school football in Indiana, he has learned to appreciate what playing for the Buckeyes is all about.

"Oh man, playing for Ohio State has been unbelievable," he said emphatically. "I've had a lot of great moments here and we've won a lot of great games. For me, it's been so great being able to play against the best, both in our games and in practice every day. Coming from out of state I didn't really know what to expect, but the togetherness of this team is something people wouldn't know unless they were a part of it. I've had a lot of great people just take me under their wing, so now it's like I'm from Ohio, to me. This is a brotherhood, being a part of Ohio State football. That's the biggest thing about this program, not the wins and losses. This is like a fraternity. One that will last forever. Ohio State football means something and I'm glad to be a small part of it. I've learned so much about life from my experiences here."

One of the lessons Washington has learned is how important it is to help other people when possible. He attributes the fact that he believes very strongly in that lesson to Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel.

"Reaching out to others is what coach Tressel is all about," he stated. "That's why I'm out here today with these little kids. I know what this means to that little guy who looks up to an Ohio State football player. To be able to reach out and touch an Ohio State football player, and be around us all day, could go a long way in a young guy's development. There's nothing better to do in life than to touch somebody else's life. I know how the people in this state look at Ohio State football players, and it's very important that we are visible to our fans whenever we can do something like this."

Washington knows the Buckeyes will be one of the favorites to win not only the Big-10 title, but the national championship as well. He spoke about what type of leadership this team is receiving, as well as his thoughts on what true leadership is.

"We have great leaders on this team and we always have had that from the first day I arrived at Ohio State," Washington stressed. "To me, leadership is about guidance, plain and simple. Leadership is just not all about someone out there yelling and screaming. There are times when that is necessary, but that's not every-day leadership. A leader is someone who leads by example on a daily basis, not just once in a while. I think of leadership as someone who picks up your spirits when you're down. A leader is the person who is willing to help you when you need it the most. The first guy that comes to my mind is James Laurinaitis. He's a great football player, as everyone knows, but he's a far better person than he is a player. I don't think people know that about him. He's the guy that always looks to pick up someone who's down on themselves. That's what makes him so special. James and I are great friends. I'm tight with a lot of guys. Jamario O'Neal is a good friend also. There are probably ten guys that are close to me like brothers. We all try to be leaders. I love everybody on this team and this team is filled with a lot of love for one another. In my mind, that's a part of leadership as well."

Washington is a player that has obviously learned to maximize his strengths to become a successful defensive back. He spoke about what he feels is his greatest attribute as a football player.

"I've been told, and I believe, that my greatest strength is my overall athletic ability," he said. "I have real good speed, above average agility and I have very good leaping ability. It takes an athlete to play defensive back at Ohio State, so that is a sign of my athletic ability right there. I love playing the position and I think I can still get a lot better at the mental part of playing there. Plus, we get great coaching at Ohio State and that's a big factor in any player's success."

Washington will be one of the juniors that will have an opportunity to leave Ohio State after the 2008 season and enter the NFL draft. Although he admits that is a goal for him eventually, it's not something he thinks about right now.

"My focus is strictly on producing for Ohio State and nothing else," Washington emphasized. "The better I play for Ohio State, the better my chances are of someday being able to play at the next level. I owe Ohio State that much. This university has been so good to me that I need to totally concentrate on being the best player and the best student I can be while I'm here."

Even though Ohio State has achieved much in the past two seasons, Washington knows this team needs to forget what happened in 2006 and 2007 and focus solely on this coming season.

"This is Ohio State and we're expected to win," he admitted. "We know that and we want it that way. We've done some nice things the past couple of years, but every year you're starting over. I have mixed feelings on the past two championship losses. It's certainly a disappointment to lose twice, but at the same time, it's a great accomplishment to play in one championship game, let alone two of them. A lot of great players have never gotten that opportunity, so I'm proud of being there twice, but I really want to go back and win it this year. There would be no greater feeling in the world for me than to win it all for my teammates and our coaches."

The mention of the Ohio State coaching staff, and Jim Tressel in particular, caused Washington to pause and measure his words very carefully before discussing his admiration for them.

"I don't know if I can put into words how to describe our coaches and how I feel about them as men," Washington said emotionally. "They put in so much work, 365 days a year, and they're still available to counsel all of us at any given time. I love these guys. They are constantly trying to find ways for us to be successful on the field, yet they truly care about us as individuals. I don't know if there's one word, or even one sentence, that can describe our coaching staff. Coach Tressel means the world to me. Being a head coach, he has a lot of different things he has to handle, but he still reaches out to his players on a daily basis. The biggest thing to him is that all of us are successful off the field. Every player at Ohio State has talent or he wouldn't be here. The things that will make us successful when we leave Ohio State will be our character, and coach Tressel strives to make all of us great men, as well as great football players."

In closing, Washington was asked to describe his single greatest moment at Ohio State. His answer just might surprise you.

"Oh man, that's a tough one," he said with a laugh. "There have been a lot of them but I'd have to say beating Michigan, at home, in 2006. I can still see all those people rushing the field at the end of the game. We knew we were heading to the championship game and we knew Troy just locked up the Heisman Trophy. I'll never forget that game for the rest of my life. I have a lot of great memories, but that's one that will always stick out the most. Maybe we can create a better memory at the end of this year. That's what I'm hoping for more than anything. I want to top that great Michigan victory with a better win for Ohio State. Like I said earlier, the sky is the limit for this team. We've got talent. We've got experience. I can sit here and say what can happen, but until we do it on the field, it's just words."

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