I don't think I've met many people who love life and the NFL more than Leon Washington.
"When God said let there be light, he was shining on Hawaii first," Washington said after today's AFC Pro Bowl walkthrough on a 60-yard field on the Ihilani Resort & Spa grounds on Oahu.
"My family's out here. They came out yesterday and they're excited because they've never been to Hawaii, either. This is a great opportunity to kick back, relax and also play football. How much fun can you have, playing this sport you love to play and having a vacation at the same time?"
Well, you can be spending the week in Hawaii with your fiancée. Leon is breaking the story on newyorkjets.com of his engagement to Charity Young, his girlfriend from North Carolina last month after the end of the Jets' season.
"It's time to announce," he said. "She is my stabilizer, she is my emotional, physical everything, all my support. When you find a great woman, you're happy and you're in love with her, everything's good."
The couple plan to wed in 2010. I suggested Leon and Charity might want to check on the availability of New Jets Stadium for a midfield ceremony.
"Man, that'd be great," he said, "but she'd probably want to do it more traditional."
Before heading into any other football venues or houses of worship, Washington will next hit the field at Aloha Stadium, for a final practice Saturday morning then for Sunday's Pro Bowl, set for an 11:30 a.m. (4:30 p.m. ET) kickoff.
And while he wasn't divulging the game plan, it is safe to say that he's been featured all week not just on kick returns, for which he was voted to the all-star game for the first time, but also on plays out of the backfield.
"I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do what I do with the Jets — return the ball, run the ball, catch the ball. So it's going to be fun having the opportunity to catch a pass from another great, maybe Peyton Manning."
Washington even did some daydreaming about the odds of one of the six Jets, equaling the most of any NFL team at this game, winning the MVP award.
"Not that this makes the fans in New York feel any better. I know they're still hurting from that downslide we had the last month and a half," he said. "But we get a chance to watch another football game before that long stretch of football is over. I'm proud to represent the Jets and the fans. We're going to try to build some momentum going into the off-season.
"And if one of our guys can get the MVP, that would be great. If I get the ball a lot ... who knows? That's a pretty Caddy. But I don't want to jinx myself, though, so we'll see, we'll see."
Then, with Darrelle Revis changing right next to us in the AFC locker room, Washington added: "I'm sure Darrelle will get two picks and then he'll take me for a ride, let me hold the whip for a little bit."
But Leon definitely has the chance to crack the whip for the Americans in their 30th Hawaii battle against the Nationals.
"Being among all these great guys, Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning — I could keep going on and on — you kind of ask yourself, 'Do I really belong here?' At the same time, you definitely deserve to be here. As [RBs coach] Jimmy Raye used to say, this will be written in indelible ink forever.
"I want to win," Washington said. "It's going to be fun, but I definitely want to win."
We've come to expect nothing less from No. 29.
Standing in the media area at today's 38-minute practice was Dave Szott, the Jets' director of player development, who made the long flight out Thursday as the representative of the Jets' front office at the Pro Bowl.
One might have though Szott, the former Jets, Chiefs and Redskins guard, had made this trip before, having been a member of Kansas City's very strong and very stable offensive line in the Nineties. But no.
"I was first alternate three times but I never made it here," Szotter said with a smile before checking in with the Jets' players. "Better late than never."
Farewell to TC
Tim Carlson, our Internet intern, is leaving the organization and Eric Allen and I and the rest of the Jets want to wish him the best of luck and skill in future endeavors. Carlson came to the business side of the operations shortly after the season started in September and, being a Jets fan, he threw himself into his role.
Make that roles, since he was ready to take on any assignment. He wrote numerous features for us, handled some dictation and worked the computer to get some of the weekly coach and QB news conferences to the fans without a hitch.
Tim's last pieces will be on new WRs coach and former Rams receiving star Henry Ellard and on our December Show Us Your Green winner. They'll be on the site next week. Thanks again, Tim.