Happy Father's Day- Leon's a proud Dad with a lot of POP
Leon's a Proud Dad with a Lot of Pop
Published: Sat, June 14, 2008 - 11:08pm EST
By Randy Lange
Lange is editor-in-chief of newyorkjets.com. He covered the Jets for 13 years for The Record of Hackensack, N.J.
article 06/14 — Leon Washington has a joy for football and a joy for life.
And now that the Jets vets have been released until the late June start of training camp, we suspect Leon is in Tallahassee, Fla., spending a lot of quality time with his pride and joy, especially in an hour when Father's Day kicks off.
"My son's name is Leon Washington Jr.," the Jets' reigning team MVP beamed during the recently concluded full-squad minicamp. "He'll be 3 in October."
I asked Leon Sr. how his son's sports career is coming along. He gave a telling snapshot of his own life growing up in Jacksonville not all that long ago.
"Me being a small guy, I've kind of got 'little man syndrome,' " the 5-foot-8, 202-pounder said with a chuckle. "Growing up, I was always the smallest guy, so I always wanted to do everything to prove to everybody how big I really am. Even playing basketball, I tried to post people up like I'm the center. So I just try to be that way.
"My son obviously will have 'little man syndrome,' too, so hopefully he'll follow in his dad's footsteps."
Those footsteps have become impressive strides in his two Jets seasons. Head coach Eric Mangini and running backs coach Jimmy Raye, among others, remind that Washington is "just short, not small." And he showed that in his award-winning '07 season with his 2,040 all-purpose yards, joining Bruce Harper (1978 and '80) and Titan Dick Christy (1962) as the only players in franchise history to clear 2,000 APY.
In fact, Washington has been more multifaceted during the course of his career than many fans know.
"Especially in the premature years, little league and high school football, I never came off the field," he said. "In high school, my junior year I played wide receiver and cornerback, my senior year I ended up playing running back and cornerback. I was the punter, I was the holder. I even played some quarterback. Whenever a new position came up, I always wanted to learn how to do it and just have fun doing it."
All this versatility led to an interesting and telling distinction for Washington in the regular-season finale against Kansas City that hadn't been researched until recently. In the overtime win over the Chiefs, Washington completed that 36-yard pass to Wallace Wright. He also had 11 runs, three receptions, two punt returns and two kick returns.
Can you guess the last time a Jet did at least one of each of those five things in a game? I'll save you the time — it's never happened in a season, let alone a game. Leon was the first.
It's almost as rare a pick-five in the NFL at large. Antwaan Randle El was the last to do it — four times as a Steeler, most recently in 2003. Since 1990, the feat has been accomplished in the NFL only seven times and only by Brian Mitchell, Randle El ... and Washington. Here is the list:
Player, Team Opp. Date Rush Rec Comp PR KR
Leon Washington, NYJ vs. KC 12.30.07 11 3 1 2 2
Antwaan Randle El, PIT at DEN 10.12.03 2 1 1 5 1
Antwaan Randle El, PIT at TB 12.23.02 1 1 1 3 1
Antwaan Randle El, PIT vs. HOU 12.08.02 1 8 1 6 2
Antwaan Randle El, PIT at CLE 11.03.02 1 3 2 1 1
Brian Mitchell, PHI vs. WAS 10.08.00 3 1 1 2 2
Brian Mitchell, WAS vs. SD 12.06.98 1 1 1 3 5
"That's crazy — the first Jet to score three touchdowns on kickoff returns in a season, the first Jet to touch a ball five different ways like that ... " Washington mused about his distinctions of last season. "I'm thankful that Coach Mangini and the coaches have given me the opportunity to go out here and touch the ball so many different ways. Dating back to when I first got here, how much I struggled in everything, now I'm doing a lot of things.
"Also, it just goes to show how much I love football. That's the main thing. I love to play. So whether it's making a tackle on a kickoff or returning punts or returning kicks, throwing it, running it, whatever it is, I love to play football so I'm down for it."
And no doubt Leon Washington Jr. will be, too.
Washington, of course, is hardly the only father on the Jets. QB Kellen Clemens' first-born newborn, daughter Kate, received a heavenly kiss from Pope Benedict XVI in Washington in April. And Mangini, who we know has done great work with his Connecticut football camp and other endeavors in the memory of his father, recently broke the story that he and wife Julie are expecting their third child.
For all the Jets dads, for all the Green & White fans with children, for everyone within the sound of this Radar, happy Father's Day.