TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Recently, while headed to one of his classes, Florida State right tackle Ryan Roberts got a phone call from freshman lineman Darius Washington.
“Hey, man,” Washington said, “‘want to watch some extra film?”
Players get together for film study on a regular basis, so that in and of itself might not have been remarkable.
But for Roberts, a fifth-year senior, to hear from a newcomer who had yet to play and had no real reason to think he’d be in the lineup any time soon? That stood out.
“He’s such a hard worker,” Roberts said. “He wants to be the best player he can be. He does the right things all the time.”
Good thing he does. Because with Florida State’s offensive line in need of a boost last week at Wake Forest, position coach Randy Clements turned to Washington.
And the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Pensacola native rewarded his coach’s faith with a promising effort in his 53 snaps at the demanding left tackle position.
“I thought he did some good things,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “I also thought he made some mistakes, which we thought he would make, being a freshman. …
“But we thought he would make a lot more plays for us than he did mistakes, and that’s what we felt he did in the game.”
Indeed, playing in long spurts with a virtually unrecognizable offensive line – at one point the line had Washington at left tackle, reserve Cole Minshew at left guard and reserve Andrew Boselli at center – the Seminoles racked up 169 rushing yards and allowed quarterback James Blackman to be sacked just once.
Taggart was right, and Washington did fall prey to a few missed assignments. But, on balance, Washington’s performance created a feeling of promise in the Seminoles’ offensive line room.
That he did it on the road, in poor weather, and in his first ever collegiate appearance, only made it that much more encouraging.
So much so that Washington continued practicing with the first-team offense during the open portion of Tuesday’s practice.
“Early, he was a little shaky,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said. “Darius, we were up there talking to him about it last night, he said he was very nervous going out there and everything was happening really, really fast.
“Once he calmed down, he got into it and got after a guy. He felt like ‘I’m strong enough to do this.’ He ended up playing well.”
That might have come as a surprise to Florida State fans making their acquaintance with Washington for the first time. But for teammates like Roberts and Minshew, Washington’s breakthrough was only a matter of time.
Not only did they see Washington handle himself like a pro on the practice fields and meeting rooms, but they also saw him bring the type of maturity and personal accountability that Taggart is looking to infuse into the locker room.
“If you want to see someone’s character, leave a piece of trash in a public place and see who picks it up,” Roberts said. “I promise you, 100 percent of the time, Darius will stop, pick it up – regardless of it’s his or not. Regardless of where he’s at, he wants to do the right thing. That’s the biggest compliment I can give somebody.”
“Darius is one of those guys that does everything right,” Minshew added. “He barely misses anything. He goes to all the extra lifts we have. He stays in the film room. It’s nice to see a guy like that rewarded for it.”
The Seminoles, in kind, have been rewarded with a player who looks like he could be a key piece of their future.
And if that future starts now, midway through Washington’s first season in Tallahassee, then that’s fine, too.
“He’s only going to continue to get better,” Taggart said.