James Washington lit up OSU’s offense, and scoreboards last season for a team leading six touchdowns.
But you may not know he was persuaded to take his talents to a different type of playing surface back in high school outside Abilene, Texas.
“My mom played tennis in high school,” Washington said. “She was kind of on to me sometimes like you should just try this because it will help you with every sport. So, I went and gave it a try and ended up liking it.”
Unlike football tennis didn’t come so naturally for Washington.
“I played tennis my freshman year of high school,” Washington said. “I wasn’t really good my freshman year, but the drive to get better is what made me stick with it throughout my senior year and become the best that I could. I eventually made state in it.”
News of James’ tennis playing past just reached some surprised teammates while watching a game replay Saturday night.
“I was shocked,” Emmanuel Ogbah, OSU defensive end, said. “I was like, nah the commentator probably messed up or said something else. Then I asked him, and he was like, ‘Yea, I was a tennis player,’ and I was like, ‘Oh wow. That’s impressive.’”
Washington was a good enough athlete in high school that he won state titles in both football and track, was his district’s M.V.P. in basketball all on top of playing tennis.
Something his Cowboy coaches liked about him.
“It helped us think that he was really athletic,” Mike Gundy, OSU head football coach, said. “Because to run around and hit a little ball with a racquet and make it go in the right area can’t be as easy as people would think it would be.”
“Obviously he’s got great hand-eye coordination, so I think that plays into it,” Mike Yurcich, OSU offensive coordinator, said. “It’s good to see guys playing multiple sports. Whether it’s tennis or baseball or basketball it’s good to know that guy’s are competing, and that they have those skills that sometimes carry over.
Washington credits tennis for helping his agility, but football keeps him plenty busy, so will he keep playing?
“Not anymore, but I would love to,” Washington said.