MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–If anyone is an example that hard work and dedication pays off it is West Virginia’s Keith Washington, who wasn’t even on the team’s radar on opening day.
Against Tennessee, the 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback never made it onto the field for a single snap. Instead of brooding and pouting, Washington used it to his advantage and earned playing time in the following weeks.
Last Saturday it was Washington who won the game for the Mountaineers.
“He just plays hard,” sophomore safety Kenny Robinson said. “He shows some things I didn’t know he had honestly. He made some great plays and helped us out a lot on defense.”
After nearly blowing a 17-point lead, Texas Tech was heading downfield with a chance to tie the game. But the Prattville, Alabama native intercepted Jett Duffey’s pass and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown, the eventual game winner.
“That was better than any of my pick sixes because we won the game with his,” Robinson said. “That was a 10 for me.”
Washington’s work ethic impresses his coaches and teammates.
“Well, he’s a good kid,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He just put his head down and played hard. There are guys that perform on game day better than they practice, there are guys that don’t. He’s one that performs better on game days than, from what we saw, in camp.”
The Prattville High School alum is someone all the backups can look up to and learn from.
“They can see looking up to Keith like patience is really keep to buying in, not just complaining, calling looking for every excuse to why you’re not playing. Start doing something about it,” linebacker JoVanni Stewart said.
When things weren’t going Washington’s way he didn’t sulk or give up. Instead, he did the opposite.
“He just really bought in,” Stewart added. “He’s never a guy to hang his head down. You wouldn’t even be able to tell that he didn’t play a snap against Tennessee. He came on the bus fine, not frustrated. It was like he knew his time was coming and was real patient, which I respect a lot.”
In the win over Youngstown State, he came in and had three tackles. The following week Washington repeated that performance with three more tackles and earned a starting spot against the Red Raiders.
Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson encourages everyone to follow Washington’s example.
“Well, I told the guys this the other day, I’m trying to make an example out of Keith because of all the good he’s been doing,” Gibson said. “But Keith played zero snaps against Tennessee on defense, which probably makes us look dumb. He just kept working. He didn’t pout. Why that even got brought up on Sunday in our meeting is because we went out in the third quarter and we would get a stop, get a sack or get off the field and nobody was excited on the sideline.
“It looked like we didn’t even want to be there. That’s concerning and that was addressed. But the 11 guys out on the field were excited, but we had some guys that I didn’t know what their problem was. Maybe, it was too hot, or they thought the game was over. Whatever it may have been, we don’t have time to do any of that. We have to get better every snap in every series in every game. That part of it was disappointing.”
The redshirt junior has defined his coaches’expectations and is making his mark on the Mountaineers defensive unit.
“He can run. He knows what to do with the ball when he gets it,” Gibson said. “He’s very explosive, he can jump. But the biggest concern I had with Keith when he came in is that he was maybe too light and couldn’t play as physical as we wanted him to. He’s proven me wrong on that.”
“I’m really proud of Keith, he’s a great teammate, great kid,” Holgorsen added. “He just put his head down and played, and it didn’t take us long to figure out that that’s one of our better players.”