Receiver Washington a Power positive for Arena team
By the time his teammates trickled into the UPMC indoor practice facility in the South Side, Power receiver Mike Washington already was going through his routine.
“He doesn't say a whole lot, but if you take a look, right now he's down there working out,” coach Derek Stingley said. “It's like a ‘look at me' type of thing. He leads by example.”
On a team and in a league marked by frequent roster turnover, the three-year veteran has become a mainstay. And as the Power sit at 3-10 ahead of a 7 p.m. game against New Orleans on Saturday at Consol Energy Center, those around him find the leadership and stability as valuable as his team-leading 103 receptions for 1,144 yards and 23 touchdowns.
It's a role Washington hopes doesn't become permanent. The Aliquppa native said his dream remains playing in the NFL, where fellow former Quips Darrelle Revis and third-cousin Ty Law have made names for themselves.
But with a three-year contract securing his future with the Power as long as he's in the Arena League, it's a role he's embracing.
“I just try to be consistent,” Washington said. “I just try to focus on the now, this moment and this team, help us get a victory.”
The Hawaii product was a member of the program's 2007 Western Athletic Conference championship team that appeared in the Sugar Bowl. As a senior in 2008, he led the Warriors in receptions (62) and receiving touchdowns (six) en route to being named an all-WAC second-team selection.
Now Washington has cleared the 100-catch, 1,000-yard plateau for a third straight season with the Power and will look to challenge his career highs of 1,484 yards and 34 touchdowns, set in 2012.
Quarterback Steven Sheffield enjoys having a target capable of that production, noting Washington's route running, speed and quickness are assets in the offense. But Sheffield also has been a beneficiary of the wideout's experience.
“When I first got here, he was kind of the guy that was explaining the ins and outs of the offense,” said Sheffield, who is in his first season with the Power.
For all his strengths, Washington's 5-foot-8 frame has been difficult for him to overcome in getting to the next level. Stingley said that if Washington were closer to 6-foot, he “knows for a fact” Washington would be in the NFL.
Washington remains hopeful, noting the Rams' selection of 5-foot-8 wideout Tavon Austin eighth overall in April's draft as evidence there's room in the league for players who fit his profile. Stingley believes the return game could be a good place for Washington to catch on.
In the meantime, Washington said he plans to maintain the habits that have made him not only a productive player but also a leader for the Power.
“At this level and at any pro level, it's not really all about how big you are. It's mentality. Ninety percent of it's mentality,” he said. “Can you handle success on and off the field, be a disciplined player, coachable and stuff? And I feel like I'm all those.”
Adam Bittner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.