Maurice Washington calls out Rivals.com, wins UA Game MVP
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A quick survey of recruits on Twitter produces no shortage of players that feel as though they’re overlooked, underrated, or worst of all - slept on.
Fewer and farther between are players that do something about such a perception in the way that Under Armour All-American Game MVP Maurice Washington did on Thursday night.
Although Rivals.com wasn’t the only recruiting media outlet that had Washington ranked as a three-star prospect heading into the game, he saw fit to single out the site, taking umbrage with his ranking on the eve of a record-setting performance. In a tweet, he called his shot, dubbed himself an underdog, and then went to work.
Not only did Washington become the first player in the game’s 11-year history to score a rushing and a receiving touchdown, he very nearly added a kick return touchdown to that, and he also set the game’s record for most touchdowns scored in a game by a single player with three. He finished the game with eight carries for 69 yards and the two scores. His receiving touchdown came on his only reception, a 27-yard bomb down the sideline from Dorian Thompson-Robinson with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter.
“This was an amazing experience,” he said. “To represent my name, my state, my family. I just came out and ran behind my O-line - my big boys - shout out to them. We had a great scheme and great coaching, and I just did what I had to do.”
Washington’s performance on Thursday night followed a week of practice where even in cold, rainy conditions, he had his moments among the group of running backs between both teams. His senior season proved to be an impressive bounce-back campaign after having to sit out his junior year to re-prioritize some things, which he admitted included improving his grades and relocating to Texas from California to play at TAPPS 6A program Trinity Christian.
Under Armour Team Highlight head coach Deion Sanders is also a coach at the Cedar Hill private school.
“My recruiting process was weird, and kind of fell off, but I want to get back on it,” Washington said. “I don’t really want to make excuses, but I was struggling. I stopped going to school and my grades just really collapsed. I had to just start over and I’m getting it back together.”
He may see a renewed interest from some of the programs that seemed to cool on him following what he had to work through last year, but in the meantime, it seems as though two programs have come to the forefront with him in recent days - namely Nebraska and Tennessee. Last week, he said that he planned to take an official visit to Lincoln on January 12, and after picking up his offer from the Volunteers just two days ago, he said that he already has plans to official to Knoxville on January 26.
“With Tennessee, things are really new,” he said. “I’m hoping to build a better relationship on the visit and get to know them more, but right now, everything is just really new with things starting over for me.”
Washington said that he wasn’t a target of the former Tennessee staff and has never visited the area before, but running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Robert Gillespie initially made contact with Washington following his sophomore season.
A third official visit could be in the cards to Ole Miss, which offered him in August, but following the game he said that he hopes the likes of Michigan State and UCLA are teams that choose to get involved with him going forward. During his week in Orlando, he said a few of his fellow all-americans had been pushing the Bruins on him.
“I feel like the real connection was getting to know Coach (DeShaun) Foster more and really hanging with [Dorian Thompson-Robinson] and Bryan Addison,” he said of his interest in UCLA. “They both [committed] there and were just really in my ear the whole week. I feel like we could really make something happen if I do intend to go there.”
As for the Huskers, Nebraska should benefit from UCF choosing to recognize new head coach Scott Frost as a national championship-winning coach after leading the Knights to an undefeated season and a thrilling Peach Bowl win over Auburn.
“Coach Scott Frost - me and him have been real close,” he said. “Coach (Ryan) Held, we’ve all been talking a lot; really every day.”
Even if the ship has sailed on some of the programs that Washington had included on his offer list heading into this week, the fast and significant interest from the Huskers, Vols and Rebels in addition to his performance on a national stage should be enough to kickstart things for him in the coming weeks. He said that he plans to commit on National Signing Day in February, and is optimistic that a few more programs will take a second look at him before then.
“I hope so,” he said. “I fell off a lot, but now that I got my grades right, I hope a lot of colleges are willing to open up to me. I’m very open.”