Head coach Herm Edwards left the Jets for the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade after the 2005 season. The return was a fourth-round draft pick, and first-year general manager Mike Tannenbaum and first-year head coach Eric Mangini turned that pick into Leon Washington.
"I have never thought about it like that, not until you just mentioned it to me," Washington said after having that fact pointed out to him during his news conference following the Jets' 28-24 win over Kansas City on Sunday. "I guess it was a good trade this week."
And against Kansas City he had a career day — an 18-yard screen pass for his first pro receiving touchdown in the first quarter, a 60-yard TD off a trap play for the longest run of his career and the longest run by a Jet since LaMont Jordan at San Diego in 2001, and punt returns of 29 and 37 yards, the latter to set up the game-winning pass from Brett Favre to Laveranues Coles.
Adding in 102 yards on four kickoff returns and Washington's 274 all-purpose yards set a career high and was the most by a Jet since Jonathan Carter's 304-yard day at Indianapolis in 2003.
"Leon Washington is a great example of a competitor," said head coach Eric Mangini. "He doesn't know anything but one level of intensity. He has the drive. I admire him as a player. He is a young guy who has emerged as a leader. It's game in and game out that when he gets his opportunity, he maximizes it.
"He had a difficult play last week where he put the ball on the ground," said the coach, referring to Washington's muffed punt at Oakland, "but he's moved past it. He got more opportunities this week and his plays not only help us but they make it easy for us to draw off for energy."
There were plenty of plays for his teammates to draw energy off of by Washington Sunday as he caught and rushed for a touchdown for the first time in his NFL career, in addition to his special teams performance, which keeps him among the league return leaders on punts (13.0 yards per return) and kickoffs (27.6).
"On special teams, you want to make plays for your team, whether it's offensive special teams or defensive special teams," said Washington. "Last week against Oakland we had our heads handed to us. We wanted to come back in this game, like we did in our last home game against Cincinnati, and establish good field position. When you can do that, you give your team a good chance to win the game, in setting up good field position for your offense."
Had Jay Feely not missed on his first-quarter field goal, Washington would have set up 10 points in addition to the 14 he scored.
"It's something that I dream about at night," said Washington. "I think about when I get the ball in the game will I have an opportunity to a big play for our team. A lot of times before I make a big play I'm thinking about scoring a touchdown.
"Before I got that ball and that long run, I was thinking I was going to score a touchdown. It worked well in practice and I came out today, executed when I had a chance to make a play, made a play for the team."
The 2007 Jets MVP, who checks in at 5'8" and 202 pounds, has earned the respect of his teammates.
"Leon can play, there's no question about it," said nose tackle Kris Jenkins. "I know a lot of people look at Leon and look at his size. That's a big man — just the rest of his body is invisible."
"Leon's a very, very tough guy," said fullback Tony Richardson. "I've played with guys like Priest Holmes, and a lot of times they look at guys like that and they don't think they're very strong because they're not very big. But you can't judge the size of a man's heart and Leon plays bigger than most guys that are 230 pounds.
"He has the will to want to do it and he has the will to win, so every time he gets the ball you'd better be ready because he can get it done."