L’Damian Washington was leaving church Sunday when he received a call from the Chiefs’ scouting department.
A pair of their receivers, Chris Conley and Junior Hemingway, were injured, and they wanted to know how Washington was doing following calf surgery a few months ago.
But this was no ordinary calf surgery. According to Washington, his calf had split in two and was torn from the bone.
Washington told the Chiefs he had a little rehab left and was working hard, then added this:
“I’ll come in and do a workout,” said Washington, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound former Missouri Tiger.
Washington is glad he did, as he impressed the Chiefs enough to earn a contract Monday.
“I had a great day,” Washington said of his workout. “As I was running routes, one of the scouts said, ‘Man, whoever did your surgery or helped you with your rehab, you need to personally call them and thank them.’”
But shortly after he joined the Chiefs on Monday, Washington thanked a higher power.
“If you know the details of my leg surgery then you know to be in this position was nothing but God!” he posted on Twitter.
The Chiefs are Washington’s seventh team since he joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Although he’d starred at Missouri, catching 50 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, he’s failed to stick anywhere.
Washington was optimistic that would change this winter when he signed a reserve-futures deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he suffered a significant calf injury during organized team activities this spring that ultimately led to his release.
“(I) split my calf in two and tore it off the bone, and didn’t know it originally, so overnight I had internal bleeding,” said Washington, who hurt himself while running a “go” route in practice. “I was wondering why my leg was going numb, and I couldn’t sleep.
“I had just gotten there, so I didn’t have a trainer’s number to call, so I’m just sitting there in pain. So about 5:30 (a.m.), I just drove to the complex and went to the first person who came and said ‘Man, you need to check out my leg.’”
Washington originally thought he had lateral compartment syndrome, which can can be brought on because of impact and causes bleeding and swelling within the leg. A test of the resting pressure on his injured leg revealed that the situation was obviously much more severe.
“Anything over a 15 you’ve got to go to emergency surgery,” Washington said. “I had a 165.
“So the first two days I sat with my leg cut open and let the swelling go down. And then I had my second surgery.”
Washington said he’s heard of players who suffered that type of injury and never returned to football. He was determined not to let that happen to him and started his rehab in Pittsburgh and continued it at Peak Performance in Columbia.
“I went into rehab just wanting to prove everybody kind of wrong, originally,” Washington said.
Washington said about seven teams called him in the last week or so.
“But when the Chiefs called, ‘I was, Hey, I’m right down the road, I’ll come in tonight.’” Washington said.
Washington is obviously glad he did. And a Chiefs team that already features three former Tigers in quarterback Chase Daniel, receiver Jeremy Maclin and offensive lineman Mitch Morse is happy to have him, too.
“He was our captain the year we really turned things around,” Morse said of their shared 2013 season at Missouri, when they won the SEC East title after going 5-7 the year before.
“That’s a real good dude right there. He means the world to the Mizzou family and to me, in general, so it’s great seeing a guy like that who has had so many setbacks come back and really get a great opportunity to be a successful player.”
Washington is currently one of 11 healthy receivers on the roster who are currently battling for roughly six jobs. And five of them — Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, De’Anthony Thomas and Jason Avant — appear to be locks.
But there are places on NFL teams for young, developmental players, like the practice squad, and Washington remains hopeful his time will come.
In fact, he takes heart in a message he received in church shortly before he received the call from the Chiefs on Sunday.
“I just asked the pastor to pray for me and show me clear vision … He was like, ‘It’s about stepping out on faith,’” Washington said with a smile.
The Star’s Vahe Gregorian contributed to this report.