Adolphus Washington remembers the first time he set foot on a football field. He was 4 years old and he had yet to grasp the rules of the game. Standing straight up in the middle of his first play, Washington was unexpectedly hit by an opponent and knocked unceremoniously to the turf.
That hasn’t happened to him much since.
“I was younger than everybody and I didn’t know what football was,” Washington told BSB. “I just saw people running with the ball. They put me on the line and then I got hit. From there, I wasn’t going to get hit anymore.”
Perhaps Washington’s motivations were a tad different during his senior season at Cincinnati Taft, but the approach of being the aggressor on the field helped him develop into one of the best prep defensive ends in the nation.
His 6-6, 250-pound frame didn’t hurt his cause.
“When he first showed up to school, I knew he was going to be special,” said head coach Mike Martin, who has since stepped down from his position at Taft after 10 years. “He is an intimidating figure. It is amazing when you go to a game and you see the other team staring at him. They’re thinking that he looks like a grown man.”
Opposing teams’ suspicions were right on about Washington, who finished his senior season with 25 sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception return for a score.
Now a five-star recruit rated the No. 3 defensive end in the 2012 class by Scout.com, Washington helped Taft’s football team reach the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Those appearances in the playoffs represent the first two times the Senators have made the postseason in school history.
“Nobody was every really able to block him all year,” Martin said. “He was getting double-teamed or triple-teamed, and there were times where he’d still get through those. He is so powerful, strong and fast. He has the great combination of those things that make defensive ends great.”
Coveted as a must-get prospect for every school that had him on its recruiting board, Washington served as more than just a big pickup for an Ohio State football program accustomed to landing top talent.
The Buckeyes have spent most of the past year fighting uncertainty with the head coaching position and currently are still subject to an ongoing NCAA investigation. Those things, of course, exacted a toll on Ohio State’s recruiting.
Long before Urban Meyer was ever brought on as the program’s new head coach, the 2012 recruiting class was labeled by experts as bland in comparison to the standards set for the program in years past.
That turned around with the verbal commitment from Washington, which occurred in a public ceremony at his high school on Nov. 22 in front of his friends and family.
“Ohio State stressed to me how important I was to their class,” Washington said. “But I don’t want to go in with a big head like I made this class what it is. I understand what my commitment means to them, but I just go in thinking that I am ready to work.”
Washington’s commitment was significant for Ohio State in a variety of different ways, most obviously for positively impacting a program that hadn’t landed talents of his caliber in the recent months.
But Ohio State also has become known for struggling to get signatures of top prospects from the Cincinnati area. The signing of Washington not only bolstered a class in desperate need of some star power, but it could also pave the way for the Buckeyes’ recruiting efforts in a pivotal part of their own state.
“I think with them landing Washington, it helped them show they can come into this area and grab top kids,” Martin said. “There are a lot of Ohio State-caliber prospects in Cincinnati, and it would be big for the program to be able to come down here and establish a presence. Adolphus could help play a part in that.”
Washington was going to be a Buckeye from the beginning, even though it took months of trips and research into other programs to know his gut feeling was also the correct decision.
With late interest in Michigan State and Cincinnati, Washington took official visits in the months leading up to his decision. But after every visit, the love for the Buckeyes he had felt since childhood remained.
“I always asked him as we were leaving official visits how things went,” said Washington’s father, Adolphus Sr. “He always said he had a good time, but no team ever did enough to jump in front of Ohio State. We have known for months that he’d likely end up at Ohio State and we’re happy.”
Washington admitted Ohio State has felt right since day one.
“From the beginning of the recruitment process I had Ohio State, but then I kind of felt that maybe Ohio State wasn’t the best place for me,” he said. “After I took my visits and stuff, it is just in me. When I went to my visits, all the coaches told me to go with my gut decision and do what is best for myself. I think Ohio State is the best place for me.”
Also a basketball star for Taft, Washington’s athleticism has been a big reason for his success on the football field. He is an incredibly efficient inside scorer for the basketball Senators, and his aggressive approach on the football field translates into a rebounding menace on the hardwood.
Alongside teammate Dwayne Stanford – a wide receiver Ohio State nearly landed before he ultimate chose Oregon – Washington helped lead Taft to a Division III state championship last March on the basketball court.
Washington posted a double-double with 20 points and 19 rebounds in Taft’s basketball opener Dec. 2 against Aiken, helping his team pick up from where they left off a year ago with a 71-43 win. Taft moved up to Division II this season.
“I’d play basketball at Ohio State if they let me,” joked Washington, who would likely consider the challenge if it made sense upon arriving on campus in Columbus.
In the time since Meyer started as Ohio State’s head football coach, he has been on the recruiting trail hoping to help the Buckeyes end this year’s class with a bang.
Top prospects from all over the country who had seemingly written off OSU have now reconsidered, and official visits to Columbus from some of the most coveted prospects in the nation – committed or not – are now set to happen.
With a quiet confidence, Washington hopes to be the biggest impact player in this year’s class. That commitment, of course, happened long before Meyer’s job at Ohio State ever became a reality.
“Ohio State always has a big-name coach,” Washington said. “To get Urban Meyer, who has been winning at other universities, it makes me think he can come in and get Ohio State back going like they were.
“At the end of the day, I hope I can come in and make an impact early and help this program get back to where they were and where they belong. I think with hard work and dedication I can do that.”
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