Robert Saleh continued to add to his coaching staff Wednesday, hiring former Jets RB-KR Leon Washington as a special teams assistant.
A fourth-round pick out of Florida State in 2006, Washington was a two-time Pro Bowl player (2008 and '12) and one-time first-team All-Pro (2008). He ran for 2,271 yards and 16 TDs in addition to 1,286 receiving yards in 126 games while playing with the Jets, the Seahawks, the Patriots and the Titans. He also had 7,553 kick-return yards and 8 TDs -- tied for an NFL record -- on 292 attempts (25.9 avg).
Washington established franchise records for kickoff return touchdowns (4), kickoff return TDs in a season (3 in 2007) and most all-purpose yards in a season (2,337 in 2008).
"I just embraced being an all-around football player," Washington told NYJets.com contributor Jim Gehman in August. "So, if that was returning kicks, returning punts, catching the ball out of the backfield, running the ball out of the backfield, blocking for the quarterback, it didn't really matter. That year everything came together and gave me an opportunity to display my talents."
After participating in the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship with the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington was with the Detroit Lions in 2019-20 as part of the team's William Clay Ford Minority Coaching Assistantship Program. In Detroit, Washington served three roles last season, helping out on offense and special teams in addition to the weight room.
"Working in the weight room getting them prepared physically," he said. "With the returners, just sharing my knowledge of the game. Teaching them how to read punters, teaching them how to read kickers when they're kicking the ball off. And with running backs, teaching them pass protection and how to run routes when they're coming out of the backfield. Whatever the offensive coordinator or the special teams coordinator may need, I'm there to help."
Washington, who was voted Jets Team MVP after his second season, returned three kickoffs for TDs in 2007 and added 3 TDs on the ground while averaging 5.0 yards per carry and pitching in with 36 receptions.
"It was a tremendous honor," Washington said. "Obviously, one of the greatest compliments you can have is from your teammates because they're in the thick of things with you, they grind with you, they work hard in practice with you, they fight in the games with you. A lot of times you might not get credit from people on the outside, but at least your teammates can see what's going on."