If former Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington isn’t selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, he could be in line for the best birthday present ever.
Washington, who turns 23 on Saturday, almost certainly will get drafted in the final four rounds.
He said he’s talked to all 32 NFL teams except the Chiefs and worked out for a handful of teams, but he declined to name those teams.
Washington, who ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at Missouri’s Pro Day, said it’s hard to gauge where he might go in the 2014 NFL Draft, because scouts have told him his grades range from a second-round prospect to a sixth-round talent.
“You never know on draft day how the dominoes are going to fall, so right now I’m just hoping that a ton of receivers go early on,” Washington said. “That way, as the draft goes on, I’ll be one of the best guys out there.”
Washington, of course, is carrying the weight of his brothers into the weekend as well.
When he was 5 years old, Washington’s father was murdered and a decade later his mother died of complications from a blood clot.
Washington’s oldest brother, LaCourtney, kept the four brothers together despite tough times. Perhaps, those tough times will come to an end before the weekend does.
The Star caught up with Washington to see how he’s holding up this week:
•Q: What have been some of the highlights of the draft process so far?
Washington: “Some of the highlights are just the friendships I’ve made with some of the guys, not just the Missouri guys but guys like (former North Carolina tight end) Eric Ebron, (former LSU wide receiver) Jarvis Landry, (wide receiver) Josh Stewart from Oklahoma State, (former South Carolina defensive end) Jadeveon Clowney, (former Georgia quarterback) Aaron Murray. Just meeting guys like that and knowing we’re all the same and all chasing the same dream, that was one of the best things about the whole process.”
•Q: Are you healthy now or does the toe injury still bother you?
Washington: “It’s a lot better. I’m not limited in my exercise or route running. I’ve got a little small ache, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
•Q: What has been your focus in training the last few weeks ahead of the NFL Draft?
Washington: “I’ve been breaking down the fundamentals of everything. That’s what I’ve been working on, getting better at the small things. I’ve worked a lot on my route running and worked with a couple different wide receivers coaches.”
•Q: The term “body catcher” has been thrown in some pre-draft evaluations, what do you make of that criticism?
Washington: “I think I make plays. Period. Big games when the heat is on, I just make plays. Not one scout has talked to me about that. They all brought it up and said it’s no concern to them as long as I catch the ball. It’s the people trying to analyze me that bring it up the most.”
•Q: Has it hit you yet that it’s draft week and everything you’ve worked for is coming together before the weekend’s over?
Washington: “Not really. Last Thursday, somebody mentioned that the draft was a week away and I was like, ‘Wow, that was quick.’ That’s about it. It really hasn’t hit me and I haven’t thought much of it.”
•Q: Is it getting harder to keep your emotions in check?
Washington: “I’m trying to keep things normal. Anxiety is something that you really can’t control. Three days is a long time to have that feeling. Day one, I kind of understand that I won’t be drafted in the first round, which is fine. Day two, you just never know. Day three, hopefully I hear my name. It’s definitely a long process.”
•Q: Has it hit you that everything you’ve worked for and everything you hope to do for your brothers might be realized this weekend?
Washington: “Not really, because I always try to keep myself grounded and just be like, ‘What if?’ Until I hear my name called and until I get that phone call, it won’t be real. Maybe then, but I also know that’s when the real work is just starting.”