Q&A with Chauncey Washington

One of the biggest stories for the USC football team this fall will be the return of tailback Chauncey Washington from a two year absence due to academic issues. In this interview, Chauncey talks about his past struggles, his love of USC and his plans for the future:

We're here outside of Heritage Hall with Chauncey Washington. Good morning, Chauncey.

Good morning.

You passed the last semester with flying colors, making you eligible to play for the Trojans this fall. Last we heard you were a math major and a computer science minor. Did you change your major?

I changed my major to sociology this past fall. I've taken classes for that degree since.

What would you attribute to the change in your grades?

I didn't practice, I didn't work out. That gave me more time to spend with tutors. I was focused on my classes, day in, day out, night, day. I knew I had to get it done so I could play I the fall. So I focused everything on school.

So no partying?

No, no partying at all. This was my last chance. I talked to Coach Carroll. He said if I got it done, got my grades together, they'd give me my scholarship back. Coach Carroll and the rest of the coaching staff believed that I was going to get it done. He [Carroll] said the third time was a charm, and it came true.

What is your current height, weight and 40 speed?

I'm 6'1", 220 lbs. I haven't timed my 40 since last year. But last spring I ran a 4.39. I actually feel faster now, and in shape, because this is actually my first full summer of working out with the team.

Speaking of working out, having stayed out of the gym this past school year, what kind of summer workout program do you have to get ready for the fall?

I do all of the drills Coach Carlisle gives us. But I also do extra cardio work outs when we're done, for an hour, 3 days a week.

We noticed you were not participating in this morning's drills.

I kind of tweaked my hamstring on Thursday, so I'm taking it a little easy, making sure I'll be fully healthy and without a nagging hamstring in fall camp.

You lost your football scholarship after becoming academically ineligible this last school year, and stayed at USC, paying your own way. How did that affect you?

It affected me mentally. I talked to my parents. I knew I had to get it done in the classroom, and if I did, it would pay off and I could play and stay at USC. I want to get my degree from here. It was also tough financially. But I figured out a way to get by. I kept on the same diet, but I didn't have much money to go out, although that didn't matter much since all I was focused on was school and studying. I learned how to balance a smaller budget. Now that I'm academically qualified, I'll get my scholarship back again in August.

You've had a tough few years, from being out injured to academically ineligible. Were there times when you felt like giving up on football, transferring out of USC, or leaving to go to the NFL?

There were times when I thought of giving up. I could have given up, I could have transferred, I could have gone to the NFL. But I love the game so much, I love being a Trojan so much. When I was being recruited during high school, I didn't visit any other colleges. I grew up wanting to be a Trojan. After I passed my SATs, Coach Carroll and Coach Chow came in and offered me a scholarship. I've been dedicated to USC since then and I don't plan on changing. I believe transferring is the easy way out. I don't think it's good to run from your mistakes. Not being able to play was a big bump to get over, but I knew if I hung in there, everything would turn out ok.

Did it make it any more difficult to stay at USC given, at the time, the very deep and talented running back corps, and how that might affect how much playing time you got?

No. I believed, and still believe, that if I worked hard, that I would be able to get in there and do the things that I do. It's good that we have good backs here because we all push each other. Everyone wants to get their chance to do what they do and shine.

Who did you lean on for support during the tough times?

My father, my family, my high school teachers. The coaches were talking to me, saying I could do it. Mike Garrett was talking to me and telling me to hang in there. The school was very supportive the whole time, especially Dr. Magdi in SAS. He's a good guy. He helped me out a lot in making the right decisions school-wise.

Talk about the emotions you felt when you learned you would be eligible to play this coming season.

I was downstairs [in SAS] and Magdi told me, said good job. I gave him a hug. I called my dad, and my dad was crying. I was crying. I was very happy. Everything changed around, and I saw that light at the end of the tunnel. Now I'm trying to get ready and focused on the coming season.

For those who have not seen you play, describe your game.

I guess you could say I'm a big back, fast and strong. Most people say I'm somewhere in between Reggie Bush and LenDale White. I'll have to show people against Arkansas what I can do.

Many Trojan fans have noted that you were the first of the three freshmen running backs, including Reggie Bush and LenDale White, to see the field at Auburn. What can those fans expect to see when Chauncey Washington takes the field against Arkansas?

You're going to see exactly the same thing you saw against Auburn. When I get the ball, I run hard. I make good decisions. I play smart.

Trojan fans everywhere have expressed how proud they are that you did "fight on," you stuck with USC, made it through all the trying times, and will be ready to play this fall. Do you get this sense from the fans?

[Smiles.] Oh, yeah. I definitely feel it from the fans and the Trojan Family, and I'm very grateful.

What words do you want to leave Trojan fans with regarding the upcoming season?

Just watch out for the Big 2-3. I won't let you guys down.

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