HUNTERSVILLE Hes only a sophomore, but Robert Washington is getting used to all the attention from college football recruiters even if hes not paying much mind to it.
Thats because Washington has something more important in his sights: leading SouthLake Christian to its first N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship.
Washington, a 5-foot-10, 192-pound running back, is on track to surpass his numbers from 2012. According to SouthLake Christian coach Geoff ODonnell, hes rushed for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns two TDs better than last year as the Eagles are off to a 6-0 start heading into Fridays game against perennial state contender Providence Day (4-2).
Were getting into the meat of our schedule now, Washington said. Weve got Providence Day, weve got Trinity (Christian in Fayetteville on Oct. 18), and weve got (Northern) Wake (on Nov. 1).
This is the point of our schedule where we see what were really made of.
And its when they will see if SouthLake Christian has what it takes to return to the NCISAA playoffs.
Since the school started its football program in 2005, the Eagles have made the postseason four times, including the past three seasons.
Last year was SouthLake Christians best run, advancing to the NCISAA Division III finals before losing to top-seeded Victory Christian.
Washington, a freshman then, was a key player in the Eagles 2012 playoff drive. He rushed for 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns and averaged nearly 11.5 yards per carry.
But Washington was just one cog in a multi-faceted offense that had experience at quarterback (Randy Schroeder, who threw for 3,587 yards and 32 TDs), running back (Joey Gass, who ran for 1,177 yards and 12 TDs) and wide receiver (Demitri Allison, who had 1,063 receiving yards and 12 TDs).
Schroeder, Gass and Allison are all graduated, and receiver Caleb Hines (976 yards, eight TDs)transferred to Hough. The load is now on the shoulders of Washington and 6-0, 170-poundsophomore receiver Conner ODonnell (919 yards, five TDs).
I think this is the year we can get over that hump, that winning the state championship is very promising, Washington said. We have beaten Victory (30-12 on Aug. 30), so we know we can beat them if we see them in the state championships.
Washington isnt the only talented player on SouthLake Christians roster in fact, he will be joined by teammates ODonnell and 6-4, 190-pound quarterback Luke Lancaster (who won a South Carolina 4A title with Gaffney High last year) on USA Footballs national team program, which will play games in Texas and in the International Bowl Series next summer.
However, Washington has been the Eagles player who has received the most national attention, so the recruiting trail is nothing new to him, his family or the coaches.
Even before entering high school, Washington had an offer from Mississippi State and made an early commitment last year, only to rescind it in July. Other major colleges also began coming around during his freshman season with the Eagles.
Its only gotten worse this season, according to Geoff ODonnell.
Not only are letters coming in daily from college programs across the United States, Washington is even being contacted by high-level private and prep schools even a few public schools, according to ODonnell seeking to convince him to play football for them before heading off to college.
Trust me he had a lot of options, ODonnell said. Private schools up and down the East Coast have been after him since the eighth grade.
Thats just the beginning, ODonnell said.
The phone calls (from college recruiters) start next year, he added. Thats when its really going to get bad.
But Roberts at SouthLake for all the right reasons. He knows hes a football player, but thats not who he is. Thats what he does, thats not who he is. Hes a real good kid.
Still, Washington isnt worrying about all that for now, even when hes making unofficial visits accompanied by his father and some of his SouthLake Christian teammates to places like The Big House, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.; or Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., where Georgia plays its home games.
Its my dad (Robert Washington Sr.) who keeps all that in check, Washington said. He handles all that, and keeps the (college) coaches at a distance. That way, I can focus on the season so we can win a state championship.
This story originally appeared in Lake Norman News. Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs
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