Earlier today I got the chance to talk with former professional lineman Todd Washington. Washington was a four-year starter at Virginia Tech before being selected in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 1998 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The First Team All-Big East standout played eight NFL seasons with the Bucs (98-02) and Houston Texans (03-05) before he was forced to retire early due to injury.
The 35-year old is now the Assistant Offensive Line coach with the Baltimore Ravens after OL and Offensive coordinator stints with the University of San Diego and the UFL’s Hartford Colonials.
Washington was nice of enough to answer a few of my questions on SOTL (a new interactive website featuring current and former NFL players and fans), his playing career, coaching career and even former teammates.
All-Out Blitz: First off, the creation of schoolofthelegends.com has added a whole new way of players interacting with current and former teammates, opponents and even fans of the National Football League. Has it had a huge impact on your personal life and how you go about your daily life? And if so, how much?
Todd Washington, BAL Asst. OL Coach: In my world, the schoolofthelegends.com has definitely impacted both my personal and professional life in a great way. This actually gives fans a way to communicate with their favorite players, active or retired. They get to have an understanding of what we actually go through just to get to game day. They can ask us questions and they will get answers from the ACTUAL person. Not their assistant. This platform is the beginning of something wonderful and I’m glad that I am a part of it.
AOB: You had great success in college as a four-year starter at center and guard for the Virginia Tech Hokies. What would you say your most memorable moment/accomplishment was at the college level?
TW: There has been a great deal of memorable moments for me at Virginia Tech. I came from a very small high school. (Nandua High School. Onley, VA) Being recruited by Virginia Tech and other big schools was a big deal for my hometown. One moment I think about the most is my sophomore year, we started the season 0 and 2. We ran the table and went 9 and 2. We met Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl and won 28 to 10. The ultimate moment was when I walked across the podium and was handed my degree in education. That is something no one can take away from me.
AOB: It had to of been tough waiting four rounds in the NFL draft for your name to be called. What was that feeling like once you did hear your name announced in the 1998 draft?
TW: I pretty much knew that I was going to be a second day draft choice. A lot of offensive linemen before me were drafted earlier than projected so I knew it was a matter of time. I was watching the draft and saw that Carolina was on the clock. At that time, the phone rang and it was Tony Dungy (then the coach of the Buccaneers). We talked for some time, and he told me that they traded up and drafted me. I was overcome with so much emotion, that time stood still for a minute. You think about all the work you put in just to get to this point. A franchise saw enough me in to bring me in and play for them. Its a honor and a privilege that I’m very blessed and thankful to have had.
AOB: Do you still keep in touch with some of your old teammates from Tampa Bay or Houston?
TW: I do. I am really great friends with Ronde Barber and his family. He’s like a brother to me. We knew each other before we played against each other in college. My father taught his mom. I went to Randall McDaniel’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. We email from time to time. Me and Raheem Morris will exchange texts as well. I stay in touch with Mark Bruener. He is now a scout for the Steelers. As for coaches, I stay in touch with Mike Tomlin, Kirby Wilson (Steelers), Joe Marciano (Texans) , and many others. I try to keep my network big and very active.
AOB: You’ve worked a couple of different gigs in college (Univ. of SD offensive line/OC) and the UFL (Hartford Colonials OL coach) before landing your current professional coaching job. What’s the biggest difference between working in the NFL and working at a lower level such as college or the UFL?
TW: Yes, I’ve worked different gigs and been all over. I realized that no matter where you are, coaching is coaching. Football is football. The players you work with all love this game. The caliber of they player may change but that’s the joy of it for me. Working at USD was great for me. The players were very eager to learn and worked very hard. Working there made me a better teacher of the game. I firmly believe that coaching is one thing, be being able to teach football to players, you will see them grow and mature faster in front of your eyes.
The UFL was a lot of fun. I coached players that have played in the NFL that wanted to get back in, or players that didn’t get drafted and need playing experience. Again, being able to teach the game is important. At that time, we had the #1 Offense and Rushing attack. The UFL has been ridiculed, but the level of play is better that what people my believe. They get after it. Its a very competitive league. I hope that it finds a way to keep going.
AOB: As Baltimore’s offensive line coach this season, what would you say your No. 1 priority is: protecting Joe Flacco and giving him time in the pocket, or opening up running lanes for running back Ray Rice?
TW: Wow, putting me on the spot (laughs). Well, me being a former offensive lineman, my philosophy is pretty straight forward. You throw the ball to score. You run the ball to win. You have to have balance in these two areas to be successful. The teams that win in this league does both really well.
AOB: Guard Ben Grubbs has been out of action since Week 1, do you have any idea when he will be back to full health?
TW: Unfortunately, I am not allowed to discuss any injuries that our players have. Ben has been working his tail off. He wants to get back out there, he’s a true competitor.
AOB: Who is the current offensive lineman in the league that you most admire, whether it be for his on-field ability or his work ethic, or something else about the way he approaches the game (doesn’t have to be a Raven)?
TW: There are a couple of linemen that I admire and really enjoy watching them play. And yes, they happen to be Ravens. The first one is Bryant McKinnie, our left tackle. “B Mac” came to us late into training camp after the Vikings released him. SInce he’s been here, he has lost a ton of weight and is playing with great confidence. He wants to be the best and he is starting to show the level of play that got him into the Pro Bowl.
The next one is Michael Oher. Mike has been the left tackle for the Ravens. We all know about the movie so I don’t need to talk about it. However, Mike was just getting comfortable with the position when we signed McKinnie. Without hesitation, Mike made the switch to right tackle. You really don’t see that anymore. It is very rare. When you have players like Mike that makes decisions like that, the sky’s the limit for the team.
Also, Andre Gurode. He’s a center that was released by the Cowboys. He has come in and played left guard, replacing the injured Ben Grubbs.
I could go on and on, but these three guys have showed what it takes to be a true team player. We wouldn’t be where we are right now without them.
AOB: Do you have any other last comments for any kids/athletes aspiring to make it to the professional level as either a player and/or coach?<
TW: If you have the dream to make it in the NFL as a player or a coach, then do all you can to achieve it. The path to the league is not an easy one. It is designed like that for a reason. Keep working on your craft. Make sure you stay in close contact with people that are in position to help further your career. You will have times of heartbreak and disappointment. You may have to take a step back to go forward. You may even have people that you rely on turn you down. Don’t let that stop you. The league needs new faces. New blood that are hungry and are willing to do what it takes to win. It took me a while, but I made it.
I look back at my journey from the internships at East Texas Baptist to being the Offensive Line Asst with the Ravens and I am truly thankful for everyone that has helped me along the way. This is just the beginning for me.
AOB: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Washington.
Look out for more interviews of former or current players coming in the near future.