By Rick Kozlowski - firstname.lastname@example.org
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. -- Corey Washington spent the worst year of his football career as his Shepherd teammates won the West Virginia Conference and advanced to the NCAA-Division II playoffs in 2012.
A team captain, all he could do was just watch. That, and offer support as he hobbled along the sidelines.
"From 1986 when I started playing football, I never missed a year," Washington said.
That streak remains intact, really, because he did play in the Rams' first two games.
He still counts it as a lost season.
Oh, to have played in the other nine games, however. Especially the playoff game.
His season ended in that second game when he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot, however.
Season over. Maybe his career, too.
Here was an integral player on a defense among the best in the nation and one that often led Division II in rushing yardage, though, to be fair, the Rams often faced teams in their league that threw the football first. He was a key part of a secondary that frequently made game-changing plays when the football went up into the air.
He couldn't play.
It was as painful physically as it was mentally.
"I didn't cope very well," Washington said.
Still, the safety held out hope the NCAA would give him a medical redshirt, provide him another season to play, as he completes work on a degree in recreation.
"I only played two games," Washington said.
Now, barring something similarly debilitating, he'll get 10 more games, possibly more depending on if an experienced Shepherd squad can reach the postseason again as the Rams enter the new Mountain East Conference.
"Twenty-six seniors, you're going to get a lot from us," Washington said. "We can be [that good]. It's up to us."
Washington's personal goal is simple.
"Stay healthy," he said. "I'm trying to string together a whole season."
His injury is always fresh in his mind. He still feels tinges of pain in his foot. He avoids the heavy-duty meds that alleviate such agony.
"I push myself to the limit and not use pain-killers," Washington said.
The injury mystifies him.
"They said it was a very freak injury," Washington said. "Usually defensive linemen get it.
"They said I exerted so much trying to make the tackle."
At 5 feet 10, 208 pounds, he doesn't qualify for the trenches. He's a defensive back.
He's keen on getting back in there, and given the experience David Carter gained with Washington out injured, Shepherd could do some different things, mixing Washington and Carter, say, in the secondary in certain situations, Shepherd coach Monte Cater suggested.
Still, Washington will play a significant role on a veteran defense that returns eight starters
"Getting Corey back is huge," Cater said.
He makes up for the absence of D.J. Scott, who won't be back.
It's about staying solvent for Washington.
"Basically, it's about me getting back to myself," Washington said. "This is pretty much my last hurrah with the boys I came in with.
"Twenty-six seniors, you're going to get a lot from us."