Nate Washington plans ‘proper football camp’Written by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Growing up in Toledo, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington never dreamed of an NFL career.
“I didn’t really start thinking about the NFL until my senior year of college,” Washington said. “My coaches told me it was a possibility and that was really the first time I even realized that I could play [professionally].”
Washington attended Scott High School and played four years for the Bulldogs. While his team’s records never quite showed, Washington said he learned many life lessons during his prep sports days.
“We were never quite as good as teams like St. Francis, St. Johns, and Central,” he said, “but we always played hard and learned many things about life from many of our coaches and mentors.”
He moved on to Tiffin University and Washington said that it was a bit of a culture shock.
“When I got there, I was the only guy from Toledo,” he said. “I was the small guy from the inner city, but it was my time at Scott that had taught me to persevere through times when you are alone and on your own.”
The undersized kid from Toledo had to work hard to find his way onto the field of play for the Dragons, and Washington said his Tiffin University experience jumpstarted his career from nonexistent to stardom.
“I had to work hard at Tiffin, and I got a chance to start midway through my freshman year,” he said. “It was hard work and started to pay off. I went from being an unknown kid to walking around campus to everyone knew who I was.”
Washington parlayed his career at Tiffin into a shot at the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was signed as an undrafted free agent and ended up making the Steelers in 2005, the same year they won the Super Bowl at Detroit’s Ford Field.
“I didn’t play much during that first year, but I had the feeling like I was a kid in a candy store,” Washington said. “I just remember when we won and looking in the stands and seeing my mom and my family. It was just an awesome experience.”
The Super Bowl would come calling for Washington and the Steelers just three years later, but this time the Glass City native would be a main cog in the Steelers championship run.
“I remember when we beat the Cardinals, and I just dropped to my knees and cried,” he said. “I realized all that hard work that I had put in had paid off. It made me appreciate that championship even more.”
In March of last year, the Tennessee Titans signed the wide receiver to a six year, $27 million contract. Washington said that playing in the Volunteer State has been different, but it has been rewarding as well.
“When I signed at Tennessee, it kind of made me realize that this was for real,” he said. “I was welcomed with open arms here, but I realized that I was an adult. I said to myself that it was not just football anymore but it was my life now. There was a lot of off the field emotions that came with this move.”
The Titans struggled at the beginning of the 2009 season, but the team closed out the season strong by winning eight of their last nine games and just missing the playoffs. The late season rally placed the Titans as a contender again.
“I am really excited about next season,” Washington said. “I expect big things from us next year too and I think we are going to be pretty good. We have a lot to look forward to it.”
While he is excited about his football future, Washington is excited for his work off the field. The Scott alum has several events planned in Toledo to help better his hometown.
He has a football camp planned for this summer, and he has been participating in several fundraisers. Washington is excited for all of his philanthropic endeavors.
“I have been in the league now for five years, and I never had the funding to do a proper football camp,” he said. “I never dreamed of being in the NFL as a kid and I want every kid to come to the camp with a dream. I could’ve come back and just done a camp and left. But I wanted my camp to be more than that.”
Washington is hosting a fundraiser May 8 at the Omni to help raise money for the Pee Wee football leagues in town. The fundraiser will go into raising money for new uniforms for all of the teams and Washington hopes it will jumpstart a passion for the gridiron amongst Toledo’s youth.
“I want to get the kids back to the days like when I was growing up and football was a family affair,” he said. “Kids were excited to play football when I was growing up and I want kids to feel that way again in town.”
Washington feels strongly about his hometown, and he is passionate to begin making a difference in the lives of kids who are in a similar boat that he was in a few years ago.
“I had to do things the hard way, because I didn’t know any better,” he said. “But this town raised me and has given me a sense that I can do anything. I want these kids to be able to dream big, and they can be anything. Toledo taught me to come home and make the lives of those kids better.”
For more information on Nate Washington’s fundraiser at the Omni on May 8th, contact the Omni at (419) 535-6664. The Omni is located at 2567 W Bancroft St. in Toledo.