LINCOLN — Big news for Nebraska football fans. Life-changing news for Maurice Washington.
The four-star running back found out Wednesday afternoon — about the same time Husker media and fans did — he was going to be fully eligible to play as a true freshman this fall.
He’d been to three high schools in three years, finished work for his diploma after his senior year and retook the ACT in mid-July — all for a chance to make it to Nebraska. Washington received the news with shock.
“I didn’t really believe it, but I just got done crying, and I don’t really cry,” Washington said Wednesday. His voice started to break. “This last year of high school has been so hard.”
Washington, from Stockton, California, played his senior year at Trinity Christian in Cedar Hill, Texas. He was a star for the team — which has former NFL players for coaches — but unhappy, by his own admission, away from the field. He was expelled during the second semester. At that point, it seemed possible he’d head to junior college.
But Washington made it to Nebraska. A running back who ESPN deemed a top-100 recruit will be on the “first flight out” to Lincoln. He plans to arrive in time for training camp. He’s lost weight — his 6-foot-1 frame is down to 170 pounds — and he knows that first month of camp, conditioning and the rigors of college football will be hard. Washington said it’s a “consequence” of the situation in which he put himself. He doesn’t blame anyone else, doesn’t plan on backing off in competition, either.
As many as seven scholarship backs could vie for the starting job.
“The better the competition, the better I become,” Washington said.
He talked to running backs coach Ryan Held on Wednesday. Held’s message: “It’s time to ball now.”
Washington can do that. When Washington was on a football field, he excelled.
As a sophomore at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale, California, Washington garnered national attention after running for more than 1,800 yards and 29 touchdowns. After a coaching change, and Washington’s dislike of the private school, he transferred to Oak Grove High. He lost his eligibility in the transfer process and didn’t play as a junior.
Washington moved in with his aunt and transferred to Trinity Christian for his senior year. With NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as his offensive coordinator, Washington ran for 1,253 yards and 10.2 yards per carry en route to a state title. He also played defensive back, linebacker, wide receiver and quarterback for Trinity, which is the subject of an upcoming documentary series by MaxPreps. Washington was among the players featured.
He wasn’t on Nebraska’s recruiting radar until December. While preparing for Auburn in the Peach Bowl, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher got a call from Sanders, a longtime contact, who said the Huskers needed to take a look at Washington’s film. Fisher told Frost, who paused Auburn’s game film during a staff meeting and put on Washington’s Hudl tape.
After 30 seconds, Frost asked Fisher to get Washington on a phone. An offer was given and a visit was set up. Washington later won MVP honors in the Under Armour All-America Game.
Washington picked Nebraska over Ohio State, Arizona State and others on signing day in February.
Even then, he had work to do to qualify academically.
He spent the summer working at a sports bar and finishing up schoolwork after being expelled from Trinity. After graduating from high school near his home in California, Washington told The World-Herald he still had one more task to manage before being able to enroll. He had to take the ACT and score a 20 or higher.
Washington took the ACT July 14, the final test date for the 2018. He got his score back July 24. He was admitted to Nebraska on July 26.
Though there had been consistent media chatter about Washington potentially needing an academic redshirt, Frost never ruled out Washington having immediate eligibility.
Now, he does. He’ll be on a plane soon.
“A lot of people didn’t believe I’d make it, but I always believed it, my family believed it and my coaches believed it,” Washington said. “And I did.”