When Dunbar High basketball coach Pete Pompey needed a starter who was willing to sacrifice personal glory and his body for the good of the team last winter, he chose Kevin Washington to play power forward.
Washington was willing to go inside and bang bodies with the opponents' big men, get rebounds and play defense while his teammates got the points and the glory.
Pompey, also Dunbar's football coach, needed someone around whom to build this year's offense. He again chose Washington, a 6-foot-4, 204-pound tight end.
With his credentials from his sophomore and junior seasons, Washington is qualified to fill the role Pompey has chosen for him this fall.
In each of the past two years, Washington has finished the regular season as the area's third-leading receiver. In 1988, he had 37 catches for 534 yards and two touchdowns. In 1989, he again had 37 catches, for 538 yards and three touchdowns.
"In basketball, he's a role player," Pompey said. "He does the blue-collar work, and he is overshadowed by the other kids. In football, he's the main cog. The role for him in football is to step up front and be counted."
Washington, a senior, came to Dunbar from West Baltimore as a football prospect. He took a chance by going out for basketball to become part of the school's storied tradition in that sport. However, he has become part of a new tradition at Dunbar -- standout receivers.
Calvin Williams was a first-team All-Metro pick in 1984 and is now a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles after a standout career at Purdue. David Lewis, a three-time All-Metro selection who graduated in 1989, is in his second year as a starter at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa. Lewis plans to attend Miami, Fla., next year.
"Coach [Pompey] has complimented me a lot on my game, and sometimes he compares me with David [Lewis]," said Washington, who also starts at linebacker. "He says my hands are as soft as his. I take that as a high compliment because I think David was one of the greatest receivers in the state."
Williams and Lewis are speedy receivers noted for precise routes, soft hands and ability to run after catching the ball.
Washington is bigger and slower than Williams or Lewis. However, he is known for the other abilities that set Williams and Lewis apart, especially running after catching the ball.
"He's very difficult to bring down," said Pompey. "He lowers his shoulders well, has the high knee action, absorbs and delivers the blow to spring himself."
Pompey says Washington's "numbers will get better" this season, but Washington is not sure who he will be catching passes from.
Donald Meredith and Nathaniel Smith are battling for the starting quarterback slot, and Pompey plans to continue the battle into the home opener today against Edmondson.
Dunbar is attempting to win its first Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference title since 1985, but the uncertainty at quarterback has left a void for a leader on offense. Guess who has stepped forward?
"What I hear from the guys is that they depend on me," Washington said. "A couple have said to me during game situations, 'Give the ball to Kevin.' A lot of guys seem to look up to me during football season. That makes me feel good and makes me work even harder when on the field."