Leon Showed He's Special Enough to Go Hawaiian


The Jets have an NFL-high and franchise-record seven players named to this year's Pro Bowl. Newyorkjets.com is profiling each all-star this week before practices begin in Hawaii next week. Today: Leon Washington.

Leon Washington loves doing it all.

Lately he's taken up golf and we hear he's pretty good at it. And several fans have noticed how polished he's become doing interviews and TV work on into this off-season.

But this jack-of-all-trades-master-of-many really showed his versatility and value this season. Running the ball, catching it and returning it, Washington totaled 2,332 yards this season. That was the most in the NFL this season and a franchise record.

"Ever since high school I've always played both ways," Leon said during the season. "I always take pride in the fact that the more I do, the better I can help the team out. I take pride in going out there and doing what I need to do to help our team win, whether that's returning kicks, playing on kickoff team, punt team or at running back. The more you can do, the better."

Washington also has said, "I would be telling stories if I said I've never thought about making the Pro Bowl." But because of his versatility and rising national image, now he'll be able to tell stories about making the Pro Bowl. He is the AFC's kick returner in the annual all-star game that will be played in Honolulu a week from Sunday.

It's well-deserved. Washington assaulted the Jets' record book this season:

*  With his 60-yard touchdown run against Kansas City and his 61-yarder four games later at Tennessee, he became the first Jet or Titan to have a pair of 60-yard runs in a career, let alone a season.

*  With his 92-yard kickoff-return touchdown at New England, he set the franchise mark with his fourth career kickoff-return score, all in the last two seasons.

*  With his 9-yard catch on the third offensive play of the season finale against Miami, Washington passed Bruce Harper's franchise all-purpose-yardage record, finishing with the above-mentioned 2,332.

*  With his 5.89 yards per carry on 76 carries, he became the first Jets back with at least 50 carries to average more than 5 yards a pop since Harper's phenomenal 6.9 average on 51 carries in 1983, a quarter of a century ago.

Besides the numbers, there is Washington's attitude. Despite his offensive prowess, Leon deflected many media attempts to goad him into saying something like "Give me the damn ball."

"Not at all," he said last month when asked if he was disappointed at his 123 offensive touches, seven to eight a game. "I get opportunities to give the team a chance to win plenty with kickoff and punt returns and catching the ball out of the backfield. It's been my thing all year to provide the spark when we need it. I believe I had the opportunity to do that this year."

And the reason for that attitude is his attitude about his profession.

"I look forward to playing football," he has said. "I love to play football. I just look forward to going out there, playing the game to win."

"Big-time congratulations to Leon," Harper said, "and I love what he's doing."

Harper isn't alone.

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