In three weeks, the biggest fish on the Syracuse University football recruiting board will be making his decision. Robert Washington will be choosing from a list that includes the Orange, Michigan, TCU, North Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. As far as we’re concerned, there are four reasons Syracuse should pull out all of the stops to land Robert Washington, and four reasons he should pick the Orange. Let’s just call it the 4+4 equation. Oh, by the way: #Restore44…
First, let’s start with our four big reasons Syracuse should do anything it takes to bring in Washington – and by anything, we do mean hand over 44, if that’s what it takes. For those of you on the fence about this subject, this is the best reason for why this should be done: this is a bright young man, with great football skills, who can change the whole future of this program.
If you look at the legend of 44 and what it means, this young man is who you would roll the dice with on restoring the legacy. By all accounts he is a great student, a great citizen, and a talented player. Some will ask, “What if he flops? Maybe we should wait, and make him earn it.”
Our response? That wasn’t the line of thinking when Ben Schwartzwalder handed 44 to Ernie Davis. You hear a lot of talk about “being bold” and we have to ask, is it bold to sit back and say “what if?” Or is it bold to take a stand, go out on a limb, and be original? When you have a fan base dying for something to be excited about, would rather say the coach swung for the fences and missed, or to say how could he let this slip away over a jersey? How many people would show up to see 44 run out of the smoke and onto the field before that first home game in the Carrier Dome? How many people would buy season tickets to watch a big time recruit take the field for the Orange? This is a win-win. You have to realize, folks close to the program have strongly indicated that 44 is coming back, sooner or later. Floyd Little has said he’d love to see his grandson wear it. It’s not a question of if, but when. So why not now? Let’s take a look at the main reasons the time is now, and the right recruit is Robert Washington:
1. Elite Talent
Robert Washington may be rated as a 4-star prospect, but watching his film, he screams 5-star talent. Just ask Harbaugh, Saban, Mora, Meyer, Spurier, Fisher, Kelly, and the rest of the top coaches in America, and see how many stars they’d give him. This is a young man whose number is high on their speed dial, and they’ll pursue him diligently right up until signing day. The top coaches in America know this kid is a game changer, and he could be a program changer for Syracuse.
2. Elite Student
Robert Washington isn’t going to keep coaches up at night wondering if he will qualify. He is reportedly scheduled to enroll early so he can get the extra spring ball time in before the season. What coach doesn’t want to see that? Having a chance to get a kid on campus to work out and study the playbook gives you a chance to learn what he can do for you, and getting him into the system early can be priceless for a coach. Add his academic talents to your team and not only does it improve your team graduation rate, but also coaches love a smart player because he will learn, listen, and focus on what his coach needs from him to become a better player, and a better teammate and representative of the University.
3. Elite Friends
Robert Washington has very publicly said he wants to commit early so he can recruit for his future team. This kid has played in the biggest All-Star games high school football has to offer. He knows all the top tier talent, and they know him. His joining a team and going to other top prospects can be the difference between a top 40 ranking, and a top 25 ranking. He can help bring star power to whichever team he joins just by asking these other top level recruits to come play with him. He takes a team struggling to be recognized, and gives them instant national attention.
4. Elite Brand Exposure
Obviously, Robert Washington has offers from every top school in the country. Right now, the fact that he has Syracuse on his list has other schools and their fans acting dismissive of the Orange. Nobody at those top schools is thinking that Syracuse has a shot. The big boys received a shot across the bow from the Orange last year when Scott Shafer pulled Jake Pickard away from Michigan and Wisconsin, and Steven Clark away from Florida. This year, the third year coach can sink their battleship with a direct hit to the hull. Bringing in a top guy like Robert Washington lets players coming up know Syracuse has a draw for them. A player like Robert Washington dispels any notion only underrated, and under the radar kids go there. It puts the recruiting world on notice that Syracuse is a big boy too, and they are here to compete for the long haul.
So given that Syracuse needs a player like Robert Washington for all of these reasons, the question now is, why should he choose the Orange? He has the college world at his fingertips. He can go play for pretty much any college team in the nation, so why sign on with a team that went 3-9 last season? What does Syracuse have to offer him? Let’s take 44 off the table for this, as it’s not fair to just end it that quickly. After all, 44 is the ace up Syracuse’s sleeve, and this is not really a secret anymore. So let’s take a look at the rest of the reasons, pretending 44 is off the table. What can Syracuse offer Mr. Washington to set them apart?
1. Early playing time
Or at least the chance to compete for an early spot on the 2-deep. Syracuse signed three running backs last season, each of whom has considerable talent. But it’s going to be hard to keep a kid who, entering his senior season, is already 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, and runs a reported sub-4.5 in the 40 yard dash. Robert Washington would be a top back on most teams in Division I sooner rather than later. He is an all-around back, with near elite speed combined with incredible power and agility. This kid can run it up the middle and make linebackers think twice about trying to stop him head on. He can take it to the outside and outrun most defensive backs that will be chasing him. He can get into the open field and juke a safety out of his cleats. Bringing this to ‘Cuse will give him a clear shot at playing time.
Syracuse is a great school to attend and get your degree. Looking over the list of Robert’s top schools, which each have strong academic reputations, Syracuse is can sit comfortably aside each of them from that standpoint. Depending on what major he is interested in, Syracuse has some of strongest programs in the country, particularly in areas like communications and sports management – a department named for David Falk, the super-agent and Syracuse alum who shot to fame representing Michael Jordan. The bottom line is that no matter what field of study Robert Washington wants to pursue, he’ll have ample opportunity to chase a non-football dream with a degree from Syracuse University.
3. The opportunity to be part of something special
Sure, you can go to Alabama and help them make the college football playoff immediately – but because it’s expected at this point, any individual player will be more of a cog in the machine, rather than a potential program savior. Playing for North Carolina would be understandable, as it’s the home state team, and playing for an NFL coach like Jim Harbaugh would be a choice no one could fault. But Syracuse? Now that’s original. That’s a chance to make an historical impact. A player of Robert Washington’s caliber selecting Syracuse has a chance to create a massive buzz for the program across the college football community. If Robert Washington were to commit to Syracuse, spark a top level recruiting class, and lead the Orange back to glory? That’s the stuff of legend.
4. The fans, and the staff
When it comes to the type of family atmosphere Robert has said he is looking for, nobody competes with the Syracuse coaching staff. Both the prospects who have signed with Syracuse since Scott Shafer took the reins and the recruits Shafer and his crew are currently chasing have raved about the familial atmosphere at Syracuse University. When it comes to the 2015 recruiting class, this was one of the most often cited reasons prospects chose the Orange.
And lastly, the fans. The Syracuse fan base already loves Robert Washington. They have been starving for a player like him for years. Take a look at social media, or the Syracuse message boards, and you’ll see just how big an impact Robert Washington has already had on the Orange faithful. Syracuse hasn’t been in the position much over the past 15 years to land 4 and 5-star talents like Robert Washington, and the fans are only too aware. This would be special for them, and their appreciation would be felt for his entire college career and well beyond. He could be a great player on any of his six teams, but at Syracuse he would have the chance to join the pantheon of all-time Orange greats, both for his impact on the field but also, perhaps more importantly, for what he can do off the field as well.
Robert Washington will be great wherever he goes. But at Syracuse, he has a chance to do something special. He has a chance to be a folk hero.
So as the minutes tick by, and the days drag on to see where he chooses, Syracuse fans sit by and hope that at long last he’s offered the storied 44 jersey they feel he deserves. But even if that doesn’t come to fruition, the Orange know they have enough to offer to make Syracuse University a phenomenal option for Robert Washington.