NEDERLAND — Learn his name and learn it well.
De Shawn Washington burst onto the Nederland football scene last season as a sophomore playing tight end. This year, though, he’s quickly turning people’s heads for his play all over the field.
The 6-foot-3, 280 pound junior has played at defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end and right tackle so far this season. Last week against Vidor, he played both ways for nearly the entire game and saw about 90 snaps total in the game.
“He played 51 on offense and 40-some on defense,” Nederland offensive line coach David Crommett said. “In the linemen category, he’s maybe the only guy on our team who could do that.”
Washington has been a force on defense this season, totaling 26 tackles, including six for a loss, with four sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick. That came during the Vidor game last Friday, as Washington took advantage of a tired Pirate special teams unit.
“I like to manhandle people,” Washington said. “When I looked at them, they looked a little tired. I knew I couldn’t take a play off, so I went hard. I got into my four-point stance and was able to get through and block the extra point. It felt good. I love getting in that four-point stance and just being able to go.”
A big man that is as skilled as Washington picks up plenty of attention for his play. But, against Vidor, when he’s starting both ways, one play in particular stood out. In the fourth quarter, Washington chased down Vidor running back Thomas Novak on a stretch play for just a two yard gain.
That may not sound like much, but Novak had enough speed to break a 70-yard touchdown earlier in the game and Washington ran him down near the sideline from his spot at defensive end, closing the distance very, very quickly.
“I’m not exactly sure what the tight end was trying to do, but he just went away,” Washington said. “I saw that they pinched it up, so I had contain. When I saw him bounce it outside, I knew I had to find another gear and chase him down.”
Defensive is where Washington’s heart lies, but he’s willing to do whatever the coaches ask of him to help the team.
“I feel like it fits me better to play offense,” Washington said. “I like playing offense, but I think defense is more my thing. I like the guys on that side of the ball. It’s like a family over there. I like being able to go where the coaches need me and give it my best. I might have to play center, you never know. Whatever you do, I just want to contribute to the team.”
Nederland head coach Larry Neumann echoes that sentiment about Washington’s makeup being just as important as his talents on the field.
“He’s a big time player,” Neumann said. “He’s academically motivated. He’s well spoken. He’s got character and is a nice kid. He’s got all the intangibles. If he stays healthy the next two years, he can go (to college) anywhere he wants to go. He’s got the size, and he can move.”
Washington comes from a long line of successful athletes from the area. His grandfather, Paul Washington, played for the Kansas City Chiefs. His father, Paul, played basketball at TJ. His grandfather was “Big Paul”, because he was about 6-foot-7 and about 300 pounds, while “Little Paul” was only 6-foot-5 and 245.
“When I was younger, I had a little bit of a weight problem, so I couldn’t play junior league,” De Shawn said. “Around sixth grade, I started to eat right and help myself. When I was in seventh grade, I really wanted to show people I could play. I always looked up to my grandpa, thinking that I could do what he did one day, so I’ve tried to keep my head on straight.”
His father, Paul, didn’t play football in high school, because his grandmother wouldn’t let him. De Shawn says Dr. Patricia Patterson, who is a pediatrician in Port Arthur, still worries about him during games.
“My dad really liked playing basketball, but my grandma wouldn’t let him play football,” De Shawn said. “I’m just excited she lets me play. She’s really protective, but I love it. She’s been there for every game. She’s learned to accept that if I hurt my ankle, I’m fine. She likes to go up on the railing and yell at me to make sure I’m okay.”
The transition to tackle has happened abruptly, as the Bulldogs have experimented with ways to bolster their depth at different spots. With his versatility, Washington gives the Bulldogs a number of options, like moving him over to tackle as starter Dannis Latiolais misses time with a concussion.
“He’s a multi-purpose guy,” Neumann said. “We’d rather he not have to play both ways. When Dannis gets back, he’ll move back over to defense. He gives us great depth, though. If we have someone going down at guard, we can do some things, because we have a guy who can come in and be productive. That’s big.”
What should be scary for opposing teams is that Washington is still tapping into his full potential as a player, and he’s doing it with a smile on his face.
“De Shawn doesn’t know yet what De Shawn has,” Crommett said. “He doesn’t know how good he could be. He’s changed a little bit, but most times, he’s got a big smile on his face. I coached his dad, and he always had a smile. I told De Shawn that one day, you’re going to wipe that smile off and when you do, shame on the guy across from you.”
BULLDOG BITES: The son of Paul and Marjorie Washington, De Shawn is already hearing from colleges. He said he’s attended a few Texas A&M football games so far, and likes the school. But, he’s also considering a career in medicine, which makes Baylor an attractive option. … Nederland stayed at No. 8 in the state rankings after beating Vidor last week. The Bulldogs have been ranked in the top 10 since Week 1 and received votes in the state poll every week this season. … Washington said the blocked PAT was not his first, as he had done the same his freshman year and in eighth grade. … Washington and Koby Couron are tied for the team lead with four sacks each. … Quarterback Carson Raines leads District 20-4A with eight TD passes this season. Colton Kimler also leads the district with three INTs and is averaging 38 yards per interception return. Running back Kendrick Hopkins is fourth in the district with 376 rushing yards.
Five Questions with De Shawn Washington
What’s your favorite food? Gumbo
What’s your favorite NFL team? Houston Texans
What’s your favorite college? Texas A&M
What’s your favorite color? Blue
If you could have lunch with someone famous, who would it be? DeMarcus Ware