Eight months ago, L’Damian Washington sat in front of a room full of reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days and told them the goal for Missouri in 2013 was to win the conference.
Few believed him then, thanks to Missouri’s season the year before, but he would later be vindicated by the Tigers’ 12-2 season and SEC Championship Game appearance.
“It felt great,” Washington said, “especially with the way people laughed at me last year at SEC Media Days.”
Washington’s eligibility is now up, but he hasn’t stopped shooting for the stars. In the weeks prior to Missouri’s pro day, which will be held today at Devine Pavilion, Washington was similarly bullish about his chances to make it in the NFL.
Now, with a chance to make an impression in front of NFL teams at Missouri’s pro day today, Washington is relaying a similar message, this time about his potential pro career.
“I feel like whatever team gets me is going to get a steal,” Washington said. “I feel like I’m one of the biggest sleepers in this draft. I mean, I had a good year in the SEC and to be slept on so hard ... it’s kinda disrespectful.”
Washington backed up his summer proclamations with a season in which he caught 50 passes for a team-high 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Despite his sterling senior season — in which he served as a valued team leader, by the way — Washington is currently listed as the 33rd-best receiver in the draft, according to ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. That means he could easily go undrafted.
However, Washington had some things going in his favor. For one, he boasts sufficient size, as he officially checked in at 6 feet 4 and 195 pounds at the NFL combine. He also has good speed, as he ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, which put him in a tie for the 13th-fastest time among the 37 receivers who ran.
Thing is, Washington — who strength coach Pat Ivey said last spring was Missouri’s fastest player — hopes to run faster than that today. He said the combine was the first time he had run the 40-yard dash in three months, thanks to a lingering toe injury he suffered against Kentucky in November that limited him in practice for the rest of the season.
“I even told most teams there I probably wasn’t even gonna work out, but I changed my mind the morning we ran because I didn’t get to participate in the Senior Bowl and I didn’t want to lose another great opportunity,” Washington said.
So while Washington is proud of the 4.46 time he ran, in a way, he said the goal for today’s pro day is to run in the 4.3s. With his height, that would surely open the eyes of teams seeking a viable vertical threat, a list that includes the Chiefs, a team Washington — a Louisiana native — says he’d love to play for.
“I love the state of Missouri,” Washington said. “If I had a choice, I’d stay.”
But before the draft rolls around, Washington knows he still has plenty of work to do. So Missouri’s pro day could go a long way toward helping him show that while he may be an underdog again, he’s probably not one you should underestimate.
“I think I fit any team’s base scheme,” Washington said. “Any team that gets me is going get somebody that works hard and is a good leader. I feel like I can stretch the field and if they want me to come in on punt return or come off the edge and block punts, I think I’ve got the speed and the length to do that. I also played gunner this year and made a lot of tackles doing that, and last year I was kick return as the up back.
“I’m one of those players willing to do anything, one of those scrappy players who wasn’t given anything, so I’m never gonna complain. Just me in this position right now is a privilege.”