Small school, big star

Trinity Christian Academy in Jackson seems like the last place you'd look for a major-college prospect ... yet the little private school has a big-time talent on its football team.

Jabriel Washington, only a junior, has the skills to be an outstanding college player. That's why TCA is becoming a popular stop on the recruiting trail for many talent scouts.

"We're a small school, and we don't get someone like him very often," Trinity coach Michael Hodum said. "We had people from SEC schools here during the last evaluation period. He's just got great God-given ability and he's a hard worker."

At 5-10½ and 159 pounds, Washington is not blessed with superior size.

"He's not the biggest guy in the world," Hodum conceded, "but there's not many people who think he's too small."

With a 4.6 clocking over 40 yards, Washington isn't blessed with superior speed, either.

"He's not a kid with world-class speed," Hodum noted. "But, as far as changing directions, he's unbelievable."

Washington describes himself as "a smart player, a player who can make the big play when you need it most. I'm a good route runner, and I make good cuts. That's important. It's not all just about speed."

Washington's route-running ability makes him one of the top junior receiver prospects in America, even though he plays quarterback for his high school team.

"Other people might have an edge because they play that (receiver) position all the time," he conceded. "But I go out and catch some balls with Jake Overby (quarterback for nearby University School of Jackson) right before I go to a camp. That seems to help get me ready."

Apparently so. Washington has been so impressive catching passes at college camps that he already holds scholarship offers from such notable programs as Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Oregon and Boston College.

That's heady stuff for a 16-year-old attending a tiny Christian school but Jabriel Washington hasn't let the notoriety affect him.

"It's a really humbling experience," he said, "but I think I'm taking it really well. You have your future set; it's just a matter of whether you can handle it."

Washington appears to be handling it quite well. There isn't a hint of arrogance about him.

"He's very humble and doesn't do a lot of talking," Hodum said. "Even with all of this going on, he's a great competitor. All he wants to do is win high school football games. All of his teammates absolutely adore him."

No wonder. Jabriel Washington may be an even better person than football player. He was working as a volunteer counselor at a children's basketball camp when the interview for this article took place.

"He was raised right," Hodum said. "His daddy, Ray, is an ex-Marine and a bank vice-president.... Jabriel's faith is very strong. He's well beyond his years in the spiritual part of his life."

He's well beyond his years in the football part of his life, too. Washington passed for nearly 1,500 yards and ran for another 650 as a sophomore last season. He also starred as a defensive back, recording 114 tackles and 7 interceptions.

Reflecting on the recent Tennessee skills camp in Knoxville, he says he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"It was great," he said. "There was a lot of good competition, and it did a lot for me. I think I learned a lot about my weaknesses. It was just a good experience."

Asked to assess his performance at the camp, he replied: "I think I did pretty good. I don't think I did my best but I think I put out a pretty good effort against some of the top prospects."

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