Gordy Combs didn't want to talk about it much until it became official, fearing a jinx. He wasn't going to make plans, only to have them go up in smoke, and before the season's first game.
Combs, entering his fourth season as Towson State's football coach, had said he wouldn't believe that Larry Washington was suiting up for the Tigers until "we're walking down the field to play Butler and he's right next to me and I'm saying, 'OK, you're going to get the ball 25 times today.' "
That image soon will become a reality. The player who once ran for more than 2,000 yards as a senior at Randallstown High, but spent three unproductive seasons at Maryland before leaving last August, will start at tailback for Division I-AA Towson State in its opener Sept. 9 against Butler.
Washington enrolled at Towson State two weeks ago and began practicing last week, but had to wait until Thursday to officially become a member of the team. He needed two credits -- obtained this summer by taking a swimming course at Catonsville Community College -- before regaining his eligibility. Once Maryland certified him as a student in good standing, Towson had to make sure he was making enough progress in his chosen field of law enforcement.
The paper trail from all of this could have stretched from one end of Minnegan Stadium to the other, but now there's nothing standing between Washington and next weekend's starting assignment.
Washington, who was excluded from Monday's team photo shoot, hasn't played football since October 1993, after carrying the ball once against Georgia Tech.
Prior to the previous season, he and a teammate were involved in the theft of a credit card, and Washington agreed to a charge of probation before judgment.
He appeared in 14 games at Maryland, gaining 292 yards on 70 carries. This was a far cry from his glory days at Randallstown. He has one year of eligibility remaining and will use it to help a program that is void of scholarship players for the first time and is getting ready for its initial season in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
He considered going to Morgan State, another Division I-AA school, but the Bears were put on probation, and Towson has had recent success with transfer running backs Dave Meggett and Tony Vinson. And Washington is happy to see the last of Maryland's run-and-shoot offense.
"It's exciting just getting a chance to play again," he said. "I'll get to run the ball more and I've got a fullback blocking in front of me."
Washington said he is motivated to prove he can still play, though he adds, "I'm not bitter toward Maryland. Things just didn't work out. That's in the past. People make mistakes and you've got to live with them."
Combs said his new tailback has "a clean slate."
"From the time he first contacted me, he's done everything we've asked him to do, and in a timely manner. He's a very mature young man. We knew he had a tough character and a big heart."