For the Ohio State football team, defections have come in threes this January.
Cornerback Donald Washington became the third Buckeye player to decide to forgo his final year of eligibility when he declared for the NFL draft Thursday on the last day he could do so, joining running back Chris Wells and Brian Hartline in leaving early.
“I’m very excited to take the next step and pursue my dream of playing in the National Football League, but it has been a difficult and emotional decision,” he said.
Washington, who will graduate in June with a degree in communication, leaves Ohio State having had a solid but up-and-down Buckeye career.
He redshirted during his first campaign after arriving at Ohio State from Indianapolis Franklin Central as a three-star recruit. He immediately jumped into the role as the team’s nickel back in 2006, coming in as the fifth defensive back and covering an outside receiver while making a career-high 41 tackles.
In 2007, he moved into a starting role with the graduation of Antonio Smith and played well, starting every game and making 39 tackles. He added his first career sack and interception, which he returned for a 70-yard touchdown against Kent State.
He was penciled in as a starter coming into 2008 before a spring indiscretion cost him some practice and scrimmage time. He eventually was suspended for the opening two games of the season and never regained his starting role that went to Chimdi Chekwa, though he did split time almost equally with Chekwa as the year went on.
Washington ended up making 22 tackles during the season with two big plays, one an interception he returned 34 yards against Minnesota and the other a fumble recovery he took back 44 yards to set up a touchdown against Michigan State.
In his goodbye statement, Washington expressed nothing but positive feelings toward Ohio State and head coach Jim Tressel.
“I thank Coach Tressel and all those within the OSU football program for creating such a terrific environment for me to succeed both athletically and academically,” Washington said. “I have had tremendous experiences at Ohio State and at Franklin Central High School with Coach Lance Scheib, who continues to be an integral part of my life.
“I will especially, and most importantly, miss all of my teammates and brothers. I wish them nothing but the best and continued success.
“I would also like to give my word that I will uphold the Buckeye tradition of doing my best off the field, as well as my best in competing with the premier athletes around the world on the field in the NFL.”
Chekwa will return at cornerback but the rest of the unit is young. Andre Amos has battled injury concerns while junior Devon Torrence has been a special teams player who has not seen much time on the field at corner. A number of youngsters, including sophomore Donnie Evege, redshirt freshman Travis Howard and recruits C.J. Barnett, Corey Brown, Dominic Clarke and Justin Green should be in the mix.