National Signing Day is less than a month away. While we at Otto’s Grove really enjoy breaking down our 2015 commits and providing coverage as the class plays out – we wanted to bring you a special class of 2016 glimpse. Enter Robert Washington, a running back in the class of 2016 who could become arguably the biggest Syracuse commit since the early 2000’s. With offers from all over the country, Robert isn’t shy about letting people know that he likes Syracuse…a lot. While Robert enters the last half of his junior year at South Lake Christian Academy in Huntersville, North Carolina – Robert agreed to do a two part interview exclusive with Otto’s Grove recruiting analyst, Justin Roe.
“I would love to wear that number, I’ve actually asked the staff if I could wear it.”
Here is part one of our installment, an Otto’s Grove exclusive:
JR: Tell us how football became one of your biggest passions. When did you know Division I football was going to be realistic?
RW: I started playing football when I was 8 years old, but I mostly played Center and I wasn’t very good at all. Football became my passion around 12 years old when I started playing running back. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the practice two days before my little league team’s first game and I had won the starting linebacker job. Playing linebacker was my original dream but after the starting running back kept fumbling in practice, the coach asked who could play RB and I raised my hand. He put me in and my first rep I ran for a touchdown. In my first game I scored 3 touchdowns and that started my career as a running back. Division 1 football just kind of happened. I was offered by Ole Miss in 8th grade and that’s when it became a reality.
JR: Your high school team had a great season this past year. Give me some more detail about the season. How did the team do and how did you do as an individual player?
RW: Going into this past year we were coming off the school’s first ever North Carolina State Championship, so the expectations were very high for us. We moved up a division and had a brand new coaching staff. That combined with an inexperienced and small offensive line led to a lot of people counting us out. All the players just stood together and fought every game to prove that we could win two consecutive state championships with two different coaching staffs. Our defense played a huge part in that.
Halfway through the season, I passed 5,000 total rushing yards for my career, so that was very special to me. They stopped the game and gave me a ball – so I invited my entire offensive line out to share that moment with me, because I knew they had fought for me all season. I finished my junior season with 239 carries for 2233 yards and 27 TD’s. In four years, I have 6507 all-purpose yards and 69 TDs. I’m mostly proud of that because my team’s record is 34-4 with 2 state championships. Thinking back, my biggest moment this past season (and really of my career thus far) was scoring the game winning touchdown while in overtime during the State Championship game. I want to shout out all of my teammates and coaches at SouthLake. We really worked hard for that title.
JR: They say too much of one thing can sometimes be detrimental. Football can’t be your only passion. What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time or for fun?
RW: Being a devoted Christian is my first passion. If I’m not playing football – I’m training or spending time with my family. For me, it’s God, Family and Football; in that order. I’m not hanging out unless I’m with my girlfriend or close friends.
JR: You have offers from pretty much all of the top schools in the country. How did Syracuse come on your radar? What are some of the things you like about Syracuse and why they are still in consideration?
RW: Syracuse was my 5th offer, so they started recruiting me pretty early on. It was the spring after my freshmen season when Coach Lea stopped by the school to talk with my coaches and I started to build a relationship with him and Coach Eric White. I called and talked with Eric a lot. He’s like a big brother to me. Honestly we don’t talk about football or recruiting, we just talk about life. He was the first one to offer me. I remember speaking with him for about two months and just building our relationship. One day I called him like I usually do – during that call he came out of nowhere and said we would like to offer you a scholarship to play at Syracuse University. That meant a lot because we had built a pretty good relationship and he had gotten to know me as a person first. You know he already knew I was a good player on the field, but he also thought I was a great person. Film doesn’t show character and one thing I pride myself on is my character and not letting myself be defined by only football.
JR: Any running back interested in Syracuse has to know the history of the position at Syracuse. What does the number 44 mean to you? Syracuse fans are clamoring for it to come out of retirement. If it did and you were offered the chance to wear it at Syracuse, what would it mean to you?
RW: The movie “The Express” was my favorite movie anyway so I knew a lot about the tradition of #44 before Syracuse offered. I know a lot of people my age don’t know, but how can anyone call themselves a running back and not know who Jim Brown is. I would love to wear that number, I’ve actually asked the staff if I could wear it. At this point, I don’t know if that’s a deal breaker- but it could be. I think if I brought it back as a freshman, it would give Syracuse a boost and could create excitement. I feel like I wouldn’t only be a great player, but I could also help recruit and land some of best players in the country. Let’s hope the coaches or admins let me do it. Fingers crossed.
JR: You were recently named a CBS All-American as a junior in high school. Have things been a little crazy since the announcement? What was that like for you and your family?
RW: Things have been crazy for me since 8th grade. Teams have game planned and stacked the box on me since the 9th grade. It’s funny, because I play for the USA National Team, and in the games against Sweden and Canada, the coaches stacked the box on me and the players were calling my name. After the event, the players told me that they follow me on social media and watch all my highlights. It’s tough when everyone knows who you are, but I’m glad because it makes me better. People don’t realize I’ve been in the spotlight for a very long time. I haven’t fallen off and I have been consistent throughout my entire carrier. My freshman year, I rushed for over 1000 yards, and during my sophomore year, I had more rushing yards than any sophomore in the country.
I’m truly honored to be named CBS All-American as a junior. I’ve been named an All American every year since 9th grade. (Nike, Maxpreps, CBS, etc.) have all named me to their All-American teams in the past. I will also be playing for the Team USA National Team on January 30th in the Dallas Cowboy Stadium. While I‘m humbled by the accolades, being able to take a school to its first ever State Championship and winning it back to back is what I’m more proud of. I’m about winning. I hate losing more than I love winning and I think the accolades and spotlight comes with winning. Some players don’t understand that. If my team was 1-9 – I wouldn’t accept one accolade because obvious it wasn’t good enough to win, so to me, what’s the point? We play to win!
JR: What is your timeline for making a college decision? Are you narrowing down your list or plan on committing anytime soon?
RW: I plan to commit in March of this year. I wouldn’t call it a top list, but I’m starting to focus on certain schools. Let all the Syracuse fans know that Syracuse is very high for me and they will be in it to the end. People always say to me that I have so many options and a lot of bigger football programs to choose from, but I won’t make my decision on the size of the football program. My decision will come down to what the best fit is for me. I don’t care where that’s at.
JR: What are your goals for your last season of high school football?
RW: My main goal is to win another championship and stay healthy for college. One thing I believe I have done as a running back is not get beat up. First, my school does not hit in practice at all. So that keeps me fresh. Second, while I do have a lot of yards for my career I have done it averaging 16 carries a game.
JR: If you could do anything besides football, what would it be?
RW: Since I come from a boxing family, I would probably be a professional boxer.
There you have it Orange fans. One of the best running back prospects in the country will be making his college decision in less than two months. Syracuse has given themselves a chance, and as a college football program playing the recruiting game, that is the best you can ask for. Stay tuned for Part Two of our exclusive interview with Robert Washington, which we promise will show you a side of RW that you’ve never seen before!
And yes, Robert just scored another touchdown while I was typing that sentence.
Special thanks to Robert for providing us with these fantastic photos.