This morning, Keith Sargeant of NJ.com profiled Jerome Washington ’12 ahead of his final season of football for Rutgers University.
Iowa’s Noah Fant, whose conference-record 11 touchdowns last season makes him the returning TDs leader among tight ends nationally this fall, does his business inside the Big Ten. So labeling Jerome Washington as “arguably the best tight end in the Big Ten’’ — like a BTN studio analyst did earlier this month — is a bit misleading. Frankly, there is no argument. Fant, who earlier this week was named as a preseason AP All-American First Team honoree, is the best tight end in the Big Ten.
But Washington has a solid case to be regarded as the second best tight end in the Big Ten heading into the 2018 campaign. After sitting out in 2016 as a transfer from the University of Miami, Washington recorded a team-leading 28 catches for 282 yards last fall. The 6-4, 258-pound tight end from Elizabeth contemplated entering the NFL Draft last spring. But he opted to return, and was recently named to the Mackey Award watch list heading into the 2018 campaign. Now, Washington is recovered from off-season shoulder surgery and appears poised to make his NFL Draft potential even more clear cut.
Rutgers, under offensive coordinator John McNulty (who spent the past two years working as the Los Angeles Chargers’ tight ends coach), is expected to utilize the tight end more than in past seasons. Washington is part of a deep tight ends unit that includes sophomore Travis Vokolek and redshirt junior Nakia Griffin-Stewart.
“I’ve been around some really good tight ends,’’ Rutgers coach Chris Ash said, “and I think our tight end position can be one of the best in the league.”
Washington’s path to stardom began on college football’s lowest level. After playing scholastically at The Stony Brook School in New York, Washington enrolled at Mercer Community College and played for a junior college program called Gattaca Football Club. Then-Miami coach Al Golden, a Monmouth County native who had a knack for recruiting both top-rated and unheralded New Jersey recruits through the years, discovered Washington as he was recording 24 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns in his short stint at Gattaca.
In his lone campaign at Miami, Washington appeared in nine games, contributing mainly on special teams. He then transferred to Rutgers in 2016, and last fall started 11 of the 12 games he appeared in for the Scarlet Knights.
Earlier this summer, Washington sat down with NJ Advance Media to discuss a variety of topics, including why his education took precedence and his secret to his circus catches:
“I would say I just wanted to do what was best in terms of my development as a player and as a person. Getting my degree was definitely at the top of my list. Getting a degree was something I needed to do.”
“This is my last semester in terms of getting my degree so I know I’ve worked way too hard in the past. Just being able to be one of the first people in my immediate family group to graduate college is something that I can’t pass up. So I definitely knew I had to come back for one more season to accomplish that.”
“Yeah, that’ll definitely be a great moment for me just because of the fact it took me so long just to get into a school where I really wanted to be at. I’ve done a lot of things to get to this point. So definitely graduating is more important than anything else.”
“It’s definitely a great offense, and I’m excited to grow into it.”
“It’s definitely a great experience to be able to play for Coach McNulty because he pushes us every day to be able to make plays. That’s how we’re going to win games ultimately.”
“At this point, I’m really just focused on knowing my assignments and going out to practice with the best mindset I could possibly have, and just trying to get better every day.”
“I think every aspect I wanted to improve on because I’m definitely not a finished product. But I definitely focused on route running, trying to have sure hands, blocking and just knowing my assignments and breaking down film is definitely important.”
“I’ve watched it a couple times. It’s definitely funny. But I’d rather catch a pass more with my hands.”
“I’d definitely say it was instincts.”
“I would say I particularly try to make catches from different angles because when you’re in a game, you’re rarely wide open. So it’s definitely important to be able to make catches at different angles and both sides of your body.”