Before Randallstown's Larry Washington announce yesterday that he would attend the University of Maryland next fall, he said thank you.
Standing amid television lights and cameras before a large gathering of faculty and students, Washington thanked his coaches by name. He thanked God for his talent, and he said, "I made my choice because I will be given the opportunity for a lot of playing time and I wanted to stay close to my mother, because I love her."
Washington's mother, Grace Price, was to undergo colon surgery today. Asked about it yesterday, Washington did not go into detail, but the surgery was described as serious.
Washington, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back, rushed for 2,275 yards and 34 touchdowns last fall while leading the undefeated No. 1-ranked Rams to the state Class 4A football championship.
Next week, soon after the NCAA signing period for football recruits begins on Wednesday, Washington will sit down to make it official, signing a national letter of intent to enroll at College Park next fall.
"I am very content with my decision," said Washington after the television crews had left and many of his schoolmates had returned to their classes.
"I don't expect Coach [Joe] Krivak to declare me as his starting back for next season, but I feel I will be given a good chance to win the starting job. I know I will have to work for it."
Washington, who began his high school career at Loyola and played his sophomore season at Dulaney before moving to Randallstown for his last two seasons, has always shown a willingness to work, despite earlier academic difficulties.
"I just tried as hard as I could [in the classroom] and it worked out," said Washington, who now carries a 2.2 grade-point average (4.0 scale) and has scored 730 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test. Both those figures satisfy minimum NCAA requirements.
Randallstown principal Mort Greenberg praised Washington yesterday for his maturity.
"Larry has had a settling influence here," said Greenberg. "The other kids knew that he was a star player, but he handled that in such a class way. He became a real leader in his own, laid-back, quiet way. He was never in trouble and whatever he has done, he has done it well.
"The kids knew he was destined for something big, but he never boasted and he was here every day.
"When you talk with him, you have a feeling he's not a teen-ager, but is maybe in his mid-20s. He knows what he wants. I'm a Maryland graduate and I haven't been to a football game there in five or six years, but I can tell you I won't miss a game next season. My wife and I are going to purchase season tickets so we can follow Larry's career at Maryland."
Greenberg said he frequently had sessions with Washington, urging him to work hard to excel in the classroom.
"At our last session, I told him he was like the goose that had laid the golden egg," said Greenberg. "Now it's his job to make sure he doesn't squash the golden egg as he moves forward into college."
Washington said he probably will play baseball again this spring and that he wants to play in the Big 33 game this summer when the state all-star seniors meet their counterparts from Pennsylvania.
Then he will be off to College Park, ready to tackle the pressure of big-time college football.