No Longer Overlooked
Running back Leon Washington, a New York Jets fourth round selection from Florida State, has often been overlooked throughout his life due to a lack of height. However, with 4.3 speed, humility, poise, soft hands, and return skills, he's not one tool short of becoming a success in the NFL.
Washington stands 5'8", but following years of ridicule, he's built up the confidence of a giant. His response to critics is very similar to his reaction to opponents while playing at FSU. Washington finds a way to bounce off would-be tacklers and break through to open field.
"Too small, too little to do this, too little to do that - I've been getting that my whole entire life," he said. "If you look at NFL history, guys like Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, all those guys were the standard height for running backs. Its added motivation, that's all. When it gets down to it, I want to let my game speak for itself."
Washington combines deceptive strength with uncommon tenacity. He played in 43 career games for the Seminoles despite having serious injuries to his shoulder, elbow and ankle, proving his durability and dedication to the sport.
"I got banged up in college, but I always bounced back from it," Washington said. "I always came back and proved that I could come back from injury. That's the game of football and things like that are going to happen. The thing is if you bounce back and improve on that. I think I did that."
Even though Washington's numbers declined during his senior season, he created quite the legacy at FSU. He is the only player in the Bobby Bowden era to score touchdowns five different ways (run, reception, punt return, kickoff return and a fumble recovery). As a junior, he was named Gator Bowl MVP after spinning out 195 yards on just 12 touches, obtaining a single-game school record of 16.3 yards per carry in a 'Noles victory over West Virginia. Also that year, he ranked second in the ACC in average rushing yards per game with 95.1.
When Washington arrives to Weeb Ewbank Hall for Rookie Camp, he'll attempt to make an instant impact in the Jets backfield and possibly in the return game. The 23-year old Washington is eager to learn from one of the best backs in league history, Curtis Martin, who turned 33 on May 1st.
"His numbers and his consistency in the NFL speak for themselves," said Washington. "What a guy to come in and learn the game of football from. What a guy to come in and play behind. I am honored to get to play with him and be in his presence. I will take this and learn as much as I can from him."
Because of Martin's age and the team's need at running back, Washington seems to have come to the Jets at a perfect time for both he and Mike Tannenbaum's team.
"When we saw his tape, he is explosive and incredibly tough for his size," said the Jets first-year GM of Washington. "We talked to the people at Florida State and they loved his leadership and what he brought to the table. So I think we filled some more needs and improved our depth and level of competition."