Washington Follows the Leader in First Michigan Game
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a third and eight. Michigan had driven the ball 43 yards down to the Ohio State 22-yard line with their first possession of the ball game. Quarterback Devin Gardner dropped back, and before he could step into the pocket, Buckeye freshman defensive end Adolphus Washington came swooping in, knocking the ball out of Gardner's hands, and into Zach Boren's.
Photo by Jim Davidson
In a game where every score matters, a stop matters just as much. Michigan's drive was over, as was their scoring threat. The Buckeyes, leading 7-0, could now afford to take a breath and relieve just a little bit of the pressure that had been building up.
Playing in John Simon's customary spot at strong side defensive end, Washington tried to live up to the standard that the injured Simon had set over his four seasons as a Buckeye, and he did very well for himself.
"I went out there and I just kept John in my mind," Washington said. "I went out there and got the strip sack for him."
Even though Washington was a five-star prospect as a high school senior and finished third on this team in sacks, he is still just a true freshman. He relied on his abilities and his coaching, but he also relied on Simon.
"He was just giving me pointers," Washington said of the senior from Youngstown.
"He was telling me to go out there and play hard and do it for the seniors. He was giving me pointers every time I came off the field, telling me what to do and what to keep doing and what not to do."
It was difficult for the team when they found out that Simon wasn't going to be able to play against Michigan, but they knew it was a very distinct possibility. They prepared as if he wasn't going to be able to play, all the while hoping that he would.
"They kept trying to get him right," Washington explained.
"I just practiced hard all week thinking in my mind that he's not going to play so that I could be prepared for this game. We were all nervous, but we all knew that everyone would have to step up and play a little bit harder. Me, knowing that I was his backup, I knew I had to live up to his standards and go out there and play my hardest."
Washington's effort was admirable and the results were tangible. But all he was doing was following the example that was set before him by Simon and the rest of the seniors.
Urban Meyer called this senior class one of the greatest in Ohio State history for the way they never gave up, but also for the foundation that they had set for the underclassmen.
Since day one as a Buckeye, Washington has witnessed that relentless work ethic.
"That was the hardest group of workers that I've ever seen in my life," Washington said of the seniors. "So it sets the foundation to just keep the tradition going and just keep working hard."
When effort like that becomes the norm, greatness soon follows. After the game, Meyer said that when you get a taste of this kind of success, you want more and more of it. Washington would seem to agree.
"Our freshmen, we're undefeated as Buckeyes and we're trying to keep it rolling," he said.
Washington never foresaw this for his freshman season, but that didn't stop him from preparing for it.
"I'm not even going to lie, I didn't think I would play this much at all as a freshman," he admitted.
"But Coach Vrabel and Coach Meyer have got faith in us to go out there and rush on the end, so we just go out there and do what we're supposed to do."
What Washington did on Saturday was set the tone for the Ohio State defense, announcing that they were going to be spending a great deal of the afternoon in the Michigan backfield.
"I knew that I was going to go out there and play my hardest, and then there's nothing that I can be disappointed about," he said.
That's all Urban Meyer has asked for from his players this season. That's what he got from his seniors, and they passed it on to the freshmen.
Adolphus Washington wasn't trying to be John Simon, he was just trying to follow his lead, and it led to one of the biggest plays of the game.
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