[Editor's Note: Here at NFL Spin Zone, we have put together a series of 2012 NFL Draft prospect interviews to give our viewers a more in-depth look at a handful of the players who could end up with their team next season. The latest draft prospect interview features Miami Hurricanes offensive guard Brandon Washington. Chris Boyle: Talk about how you’re feeling with just a few days before the NFL Draft.
Brandon Washington: I feel good just having the opportunity to be talked about in the draft. It’s a blessing. I’m kind of overwhelmed just thinking about things.Boyle: What separates you from the other guards in this draft class?
Washington: My ambition. I continue to work hard. I know some guys at the combine take off, and they don’t work out anymore. They feel like their name’s already high and that, for sure, they’re going to be this pick, that pick, and for sure go in the in the first round. I think my ambition and the way I work about it allows me to continue going because I know I’m not one of the big-name guys, and I won’t be in the first round or whatnot. That’s why I train.Boyle: You decided to skip your senior season at Miami. What made you decide that now is the right time to enter the draft?
Washington: I feel ready for the pro level … Most importantly, I was ready to be successful. I’m ready to take care of my family.Boyle: You grew up in a relatively poor part of Miami, known as Overtown. How did that background shape who you are today?
Washington: It was rough, trying to stay out of trouble and stay in school. It made me who I am today because I could have easily been one who ended up dead or in jail … Growing up in that neighborhood, everybody had, well not everybody, but some people had two parents. Most people had a single parent at home and they were able to get everything they ever wanted. So by them being my friends, I wanted what they had so I could feel like they were my friends.
There’s a saying there that says “get how you live”; how you see the dope transactions, the hand-to-hand doping and the money that’s traveling. You want to get how you live. And how you see it, you’ve got to get it like that too. If you see people selling drugs or robbing to wear the latest shoes, and you want the same, you’ve got to do the same to get it.
But I felt, in the end, that it wasn’t me. I knew I didn’t want to do that for a living. I told myself that I would do something and run with it. I wanted to take care of my mom, my brothers and my sisters. It was so rough living that neighborhood trying to go to school, sleep and hear gunshots and know what’s going on. I had a mindset early to know what I wanted to be in life. I didn’t want to be what everybody else was being.Boyle: Have you lost any friends from childhood?
Washington: “Plenty; to death or jail.”Boyle: When you were growing up, was there a specific event that was a turning point for you?
Washington: I can remember back when I had wanted a pair of shoes. My mom told me no. I wanted them really bad because all my friends had them. To me, it was like ‘great, he got ‘em.’ I didn’t want to feel left out because my mom couldn’t buy them, but I knew I couldn’t be selfish. I told myself one day I was going to do something to make enough money where I could take care of my mom, take care of my brothers and we’d all get pairs of shoes.Boyle: You must have some kind of a shoe fetish?
Washington: Oh, yeah.Boyle: When you get your first paycheck from the NFL, what kind of shoes are you going to buy?
Washington: I’m going to buy 10 pairs. I gotta get 10 pairs.Boyle: 10 pairs of Nikes? Or Jordans? Or something else?
Washington: A mixture of both.Boyle: Your mother is a big influence in your life. How has she done so, and how are you going to take care of her once you get to the next level?
Washington: She’s the turning point of my life; knowing her struggle and how hard she fought to make sure we had breakfast in the morning and dinner that same night. She means everything. The first thing I’m going to really do when I get my first check is give her a house. I’ve got to get her a house. I’ve got to show her I appreciate her.Boyle: Has it always been your dream to play in the NFL? Have you always grown up around football?
Washington: I didn’t. I started playing football my freshman year of high school. I had a growth spurt in my life, and I came back to the area and everybody was like ‘Who are you? What are you doing over here?’ or whatever because I got so big … I got introduced to a couple of high schools and a couple of coaches saw that I could throw the ball and saw me do shake moves, juke moves and whatnot and told me, ‘Come to this school. Come to this school. Come to this school.’ I didn’t know what to do.
My freshman year was my first time playing organized football; I just used to play with my friends. It was my first time wearing a helmet; my first time putting pads on. Putting on shoulder pads, I felt like the first two weeks to a month I struggled doing that. My friend was picking on me like, ‘You don’t know how to do this. You don’t know how to do that.’ I was like, ‘This is my first time.’ It was so hard and so rough. The hair in my helmet used to just stick to my face.
I used to tell everyone, ‘I quit’. I would quit like three times a week but then I’d always come back. Sometimes in practice, we would practice so hard and the coach used to say, ‘Football ain’t for everybody,’ and I would say, ‘It ain’t for me.’ Sometimes they would say, ‘Football separates men from boys,’ and I said ‘I guess I’ll remain a boy then.’ There were things like that, but I’m happy I stuck at it; now where I’m at.
It never was the dream, though. I just knew that I wanted to do something that made me money so I’d be able to show my family that I appreciate them. I could remember as a little boy I would tell myself I’m a home-team fan.
I love the Dolphins. They’re not my favorite team, but since they’re my home team, I like them. I remember telling myself that I was going to try out for the Dolphins. I never even processed going through high school and college to get to the NFL. I just thought I’d try out for a team, and then I found out about high school football and I was like, ‘What?’ I got the chance, because I was always big [as a kid], and it went by the pound. So I was like, ‘Yo, I could play football with being this size?’ And that’s when I thought I’d play high school football.
My freshman year, I played defensive tackle and I felt like my sophomore year, I had to come back strong. I’ve got to keep getting better and better. So, I hit the offseason training real fast on my own and with the team doing afterschool program workouts by myself and with my position coach.Boyle: If you started as a defensive tackle, how did you end up on the offensive line?
Washington: My freshman season, we had won a district game to go into the playoffs and, that same game, we lost both our starting guards. My head coach came up to me and said to me, ‘We need you to play both ways.’ I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to play offensive line,’ because growing up, if you played offensive line, you were sorry and you couldn’t really play football.
I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to play offensive line because I’m not sorry and I came up with that mindset.’ My defensive line coach come up to me and said, ‘Do it for the team. Be a team guy. It’s just going to help you in the long run.’ So when I finally did it, I was wearing No. 99 my freshman year because I played defensive tackle, but on game day when I came into the locker room, No. 72 was in my locker. I was like ‘Man, I want my same number. I’m not playing until I wear my number.’ And they said I couldn’t wear No. 99 on offense. I was like, ‘Well, I ain’t playing then.’
I was going home, and my head coach came in and explained the whole thing to me. I ended up playing guard that year, and then in my sophomore season, I came back and they said, ‘We’re going to have you play tackle.’ They said you’ve got to go both ways. And I was like, ‘No, I want my No. 99 back or I ain’t playing.’ They explained the whole thing to me again. Even my defensive line coach was saying to do it for the team and I was surprised … I said I could help the team by playing, so that’s why I did it.”Boyle: Do you think the change in positions helped in your overall maturity?
Washington: Oh yeah, most definitely. I had so many roles on the team and had so many people look up to me for doing that. We had a wide receiver who helped at defensive back. We had a running back who played linebacker. That matured me. I had so many roles, and I had to execute those roles for my team to win.Boyle: You moved to New York after you graduated high school before attending the University of Miami? How did that come about?
Washington: I’m still not sure. There are a lot of people who wonder why I did it; why it went down like that. But, it was supposed to be for my grades. But it really wasn’t for my grades. The university wanted to hold me in like a greyshirt area. When I got there, it was hell, man. I wanted to go back home. It was my first time away from my family. It was real hell … It said New York, but it was New Berlin which was like four hours from New York City, an hour from Syracuse. It was in the middle of nowhere. I had nothing to do. I just didn’t like it at all.Boyle: What was the most difficult part about being away from your family for that long?
Washington: The whole process was difficult because I never did it. And then it starts snowing and you’ve got nobody you feel more comfortable to talk to or nobody that you feel more comfortable to just be there with you. It was frustrating. I would call my mom on the phone and she would tell me to do what I got to do and finish.Boyle: You played three seasons at Miami, but none more adventurous as this past season with the Nevin Shapiro scandal early on. Was it really a distraction in the locker room, and have you ever had any kind of contact with Shapiro?
Washington: It was most definitely a distraction because we had fought so hard that preseason and that offseason training camp because we knew we could be a successful team. And then it came up and slapped us in our face, and it was like ‘Wow.’ But, everybody trained the same way, and everybody got the same treatment from the staff. So, everything was cool but, at the same time, we weren’t winning no games and dealing with the distraction.
I never met Nevin Shapiro. I never saw him face-to-face. I heard things, though, but I never met him.Boyle: The U has a proud lineage of NFL players. Talk about being part of a program with so many great players and some of those who helped you along the way to your own professional career.
Washington: It’s a winning tradition. It’s a team with so many first-round draft picks, so many guys in the NFL. So, you kind of want to win for those guys because they set the foundation for you. You want to try to keep it going, but football’s not played the same. It’s different now. There’s so much you have to worry about and do right. We kind of fell short. But, it’s a good family. Guys come back and talk to you.
I met Vernon Carey, who helped me a lot. He would say like, ‘Man, it’s a man’s game. You’ve got to put food on the table for your family. Everybody’s got to eat. It’s a man’s game, so have your mind ready now that you came out early and there’s no turning back now. You made that decision, and you’ve got to keep going forward.’ Most important, everybody tells me it’s a man’s game but I feel like I’m a man.Boyle: What teams have you visited with, and what teams have given you an indication that you might be their guy?
Washington: I’ve visited Carolina. I worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles. I worked out for the Miami Dolphins. I’ve conversated with the Houston Texans. I’ve conversated with the Denver Broncos. If I was going to say the teams that have shown the most interest, I’ve converstated with Pittsburgh and Baltimore as well, but I’d say the teams that have shown the most interest have been Pittsburgh and Carolina.Boyle: You mentioned the Dolphins. Is that the dream at the back of your mind – to play for the home team again?
Washington: Most definitely. If I ended up in my home town, it would be wonderful. But, at the same time, I kind of want to be able to flap my arms out … and get away from our house where the kids and grandkids can spend a weekend up at my place, wherever I’m stationed at. It kind of goes both ways, but then again, you think about it – I could play my whole career in Miami.Boyle: And finally, what are your plans for draft day?
Washington: I’m going to be at my house. We invited the family and friends over. I’ll probably watch the first round, but I’m said to be picked up in the second or third round, I probably won’t watch. I’ll probably just wait for a phone call.Boyle: Are you anxious at all about the draft? What will you do as you wait for the phone call, if not watch the draft?
Washington: I’m probably going to shoot basketball, play pool, go walk the beach, walk the sand … and see my grandmother.