Junior quarterback Walter Washington could be anywhere other than Temple right now. He could be at Nebraska, running Bill Callahan’s West Coast offense. He could be at Kansas State, following in the footsteps of mobile quarterback Ell Roberson. He could even be at Syracuse, leading the Orange to victory in the Carrier Dome, just like Donovan McNabb once did.
He was recruited by all those perennial powers when he elected to transfer from Dodge City Community College two years ago, but he chose Temple. Had he made a different decision, he could have been watching the Owls slog through this 1-8 season from afar.
But that just wouldn’t seem right.
“Temple just fits me,” Washington said. “Temple history fits me and provides what I want to mold myself into. The struggle to get a win, the value to fight, knowing that you have to give everything you have.”
In other words, Washington doesn’t want to cruise to empty victories. Similarly, poised to overtake at least two school milestones in the last two games of this season, he doesn’t want any empty records if they come in another defeat.
Washington, who averages 269 yards of total offense per game, is 152 yards shy of breaking quarterback Henry Burris’ 10-year old school record for total offense in a single season. He is also closing in on running back Paul Palmer’s school record of 15 touchdowns, set in 1986. Washington has run for 12 scores with two games remaining; he has rushed for two or more touchdowns in a game twice in his career.
The numbers are impressive, but coach Bobby Wallace, who lured the 6-foot-2, 240-pound quarterback away from all those big programs, wouldn’t be surprised if Washington was oblivious to the statistics.
“If we didn’t give up all the sacks, he’d be demolishing the rushing record,” Wallace said. “But I don’t think he cares about the record. He’s going to go out there and compete to win. I don’t think Walter reads the papers. I don’t think Walter looks at the stats. He might not even know how many yards he’s rushed for. I don’t know if he knows how many touchdowns he’s scored.”
Not only is Washington unaware of his stats, he is hardly aware he’s close to breaking any records at all.
“I honestly don’t even know what they are,” he said. “I have no idea.”
There’s only one way to judge his performance, according the Washington: “Win, and win often.”
Wallace evaluates his quarterback’s play more intricately. Washington had played all over the field before becoming a full-time quarterback in junior college, so the Owls’ staff knew he’d be raw. But they thought his potential was worth the effort.
“He’s got some room for improvement, but Saturday [against West Virginia] was by far his best game,” Wallace said. “We all forget that this is only his [fourth] year to ever play quarterback in his life.”
“He’s still growing as a quarterback,” he added. “And he’s doing some great things doing it.”
If he does break the records, Washington will be reluctant to acknowledge them. If the Owls were winning, he said, they’d all be breaking records. The football practice facility would be a happier place, because everyone down to the least-used backup would be enjoying national attention from media and scouts.
“It would be more comforting knowing you’re going to a bowl game,” Washington said. “You’d probably be more financially stable, and you’d have a lot more money ready to come in [from the NFL].”
He can break all the records he wants, but the Owls do not appear headed to a bowl game before the end of Washington’s career.
“Hopefully, and possibly, we’ll get an opportunity to go to a bowl game. If not, I don’t know what that will feel like.”
Will the records be any comfort?
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.