Sherando, Washington honored by NFL with golden football

Sherando High School football coach Bill Hall talks about the school's National Football League gift on behalf of former Sherando student Kelly Washington. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School received a big honor recently from the National Football League.

The school received a gold football last month from the NFL in honor of Sherando graduate Kelley Washington playing in Super Bowl XLII in 2008.

Super Bowl 50 is being held Sunday in Santa Clara, California, with the Carolina Panthers taking on the Denver Broncos. In honor of the 50th Super Bowl, the NFL decided to give out a gold football to every high school that had a player or coach participate in the Super Bowl.

“We certainly thought it was a pretty cool thing when we found out about it,” said Jason Barbe, Sherando student activities coordinator. “… It’s a pretty great honor for Kelley. The fact that the National Football League is honoring those schools – it’s a big deal. He’s a special part of our history here.”

The NFL sent footballs to more than 2,000 high schools across the country, honoring nearly 3,000 players and coaches. There were 68 schools in Virginia honored. Hampton High School had four players or coaches in a Super Bowl. Memorial High School in Port Arthur, Texas, had the most players or coaches participating in a Super Bowl in the U.S. with eight.

The Wilson football has been signed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and has the Super Bowl 50 logo on it.

Barbe was the defensive coordinator when Washington played at Sherando. The Warriors advanced to the Group AA state football championship game in Washington’s junior and senior seasons.

“Kelley was a gifted athlete,” Barbe said. “On the football field, on the basketball court, on the baseball field, – he could do it all. The thing I’m most proud of, is since he left here he’s done nothing but positive things in his NFL career. You never heard a negative thing. You see some of this stuff – it’s in the headlines all the time – what some professional athletes are doing. He was top of the line in everything he did.”

Washington was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 10th round on the 1997 Major League Baseball Draft, and spent four years in the minor leagues. He then decided to play football again, and played two years at the University of Tennessee. He caught 93 passes for 1,523 yards and had eight touchdowns with the Volunteers.

Washington was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He played for the Bengals for four seasons and had 893 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

In 2007, Washington signed with the New England Patriots, and was part of a Patriots team that went undefeated in the regular season. The Patriots were 18-0 heading into Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants, but lost to the Giants 17-14 in Glendale, Arizona. Washington was only used as a special teams player with the Patriots.

He played two seasons with the Patriots before landing with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. He played one year in Baltimore and had 31 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns. Washington signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010, but did not make the 53-man roster. He signed a short-term contract with the San Diego Chargers in November of 2010, which would be his last stop in the NFL.

“The reason he (played for seven years) was because he busted his tail every day at practice,” Barbe said. “He was the kind of guy that the coaches knew they could count on him. Those are the things that kept him on the NFL roster as long as it did.”

Barbe said that he has not heard from Washington, but he did reply on Sherando’s Facebook page to congratulate the school and community after the story went up that Sherando had received the football. Washington now lives in Florida.

Barbe said that there has been a lot of buzz in the community over the football.

“Any time something has official National Football League on it it’s a big deal,” Barbe said. “One of the things this country gets the most excited about is the Super Bowl. It’s right up there with Christmas. I think the community was very excited. Kelley’s been out of the league for a few years now, and it just rekindles some of that spirit and pride that the school has had in Kelley and his accomplishments.”

Barbe said he heard from a lot of people in the community that they wanted to see the football, so they put it in the middle of the trophy case so that it would be easy for everyone to view when they visit the school.

Sherando football coach Bill Hall said that he’s sure he will talk about it with his football players this week when they are doing their off-season conditioning.

Hall volunteered at some of Washington’s football camps that he held when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. Hall said that he believes Washington has been a great role model for the kids in the area.

“I think he’s done a lot of great things with the community. When he came back I think it just highlighted it, put someone real, somebody that they knew, actually had achieved great things,” Hall said. “I think he’s done a good job from where he’s come from – you can do that too type of thing.”

Barbe said he’s not sure many of the students at Sherando have ever heard of Washington, but his experience does give them an example of what they can achieve.

“They realize you can come through Sherando High School and you can play in the National Football League,” Barbe said. “That’s not just Kelley, that’s the (Sherando graduate) Ross Methanys that are now coaching at Kansas State after having a Division 1 football career. That’s the (Sherando graduate) George Astons that you see on TV right now playing for Pitt, but that’s also the kids that have accomplished things in any sport or any activity. I think it gives those kids the idea you know what you can come out of Stephens City, Virginia. You can come out of Middletown, Virginia, and you can make the big time. It’s about the drive and working hard and getting to that point.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com