Count OSU head coach Jim Tressel among them.
"I think they were more surprised than not just because of the way the year went," Washington said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "It was a roller coaster year to start out with. I think they were surprised, but I know Coach Tressel has confidence in me as well."
When the 2008 season began, Washington was not in uniform. After starting 13 games as a sophomore and recording 39 tackles and one interception, he was suspended for the first two games of the 2009 season after violating an unspecified team rule. When he returned to the lineup in week three, his starting spot had been usurped by Chimdi Chekwa.
For the rest of the year, Washington split time with Chekwa and moved to the nickel back spot and ended the year with 22 tackles and one interception. When he submitted his paperwork to the NFL to gauge where he might be drafted, Washington learned that he would likely be a second-day pick.
After weighing his options, Washington still opted to make the leap to the NFL.
"There was a lot that went into the thought process," he said. "First of all, I wanted to graduate and I was on track to graduate in June so that helped. Really, I just wanted to take my game to the next level against the best that there is."
Washington said he had not made up his mind to leave OSU even before getting his paperwork back. Admitting that he could have improved on his statistics had he returned for his senior season, he did not feel it would be worth it to do so.
"There's always that chance (my stock would rise), but I feel like I'm still a good player, I'm still a good person," he said. "I think I'll be the same Donald next year. I might improve on the field statistically, but in the end I'll still have to come here and show what kind of athlete I am. It's a process and I'm ready to do that now."
Measuring in at a self-described "a little over 6 foot, 197 pounds," Washington said he was not sure if he would do the bench press while in Indianapolis. If he does not, he will do so during OSU's pro day March 13.
His hope is that his overall athleticism will shine through while at the combine and convince a team to take a chance on him.
"A lot of people don't know what kind of athlete I am and I just want to show that and show these coaches what kind of player I am, what kind of guy I am," he said. "They are getting a quality character guy off the field and getting a hard worker on the field and a guy who is dedicated to become better."
That means coming clean about why he was suspended from the team for the first two games of the season. After describing himself as a quality character guy, Washington said he feels NFL teams will agree with that viewpoint once they get to know him.
"I made a bad decision back in the spring," he said. "It cost me playing time. I'll own up to it. I made a bad mistake, like I'm sure the rest of Americans have. I learned from it and I turned it into a positive and moved on. I violated a team rule and I'll discuss that with NFL teams."
The fact that he received an invitation to show his abilities at the combine came about as a result of "hard work, dedication and a lot of sacrifices," said Washington, a product of nearby Franklin Central. "Along the way I had a nice stop in Columbus, Ohio, under Coach Tressel. He taught me a lot of things and I think he'll be a huge reason why if I have a chance to get in the NFL."
Despite his past history and his limited experience, Washington said he was excited for the opportunity ahead of him.
"I don't really get into too much of that," he said of not being projected to be a high pick. "It comes down to things like this where you show who you are and put your best foot forward. I have a chance to do that on Tuesday and throughout the interviews. I have a huge amount of confidence in myself and I know I'll do great."