Amateur football: Demetrius Washington leads the Huskerz way
He lives 60 miles away from the home field, his body is showing every sign of wear and tear. After having experienced a lifetime of success in high school, college and semi-pro football, Demetrius Washington deserves to sit back and relax in an easy chair.
But on Saturday, he will don a Southwest Huskerz jersey and play for the 2014 Southern Plains Football League championship.
Washington is 28 and isn’t about to quit playing the sport he loves.
“I can’t give up the game,” Southwest’s defensive leader suggests. “The doctors say quit, because my bones are shot, but I can’t give up the game.”
His teammates are glad. If Washington’s bones are shot, we should all be so lucky. The 6-0, 270-pound linebacker-lineman is one of the best defensive players in the SPFL, and he’s a team leader, too.
Saturday is D-Day for the Huskerz, who rolled to a 7-1 regular season record in their inaugural SPFL season. They set high goals for themselves before the season began. But with so many players like Washington signed up — experienced, dedicated players who’ve been winners elsewhere — they felt their high expectations were justified.
Now we know they are justified. If the Huskerz can beat the South Central Hawgs — the four-time defending SPFL champs and the two-time defending national champs — they will proceed on their own national championship quest.
Washington will be leading the way on defense, just as another team captain, Darieon Smith, leads the way on offense. Smith, who head coach Ken McCuen calls the best offensive player in the league, has helped the Huskerz have the top-ranked offense in the nation with 342 points in 10 games. Washington has been instrumental in helping the team to an amazing 98 quarterback sacks.
Washington grew up in Detroit, Mich., where he attended Crockett High School. His father died when he was about 7 years old, and he and his older brother Eric were steered into productive activities by their mother. “Were always involved in something,” Demetrius remembers.
After high school, Demetrius — like his brother before him — attended Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington. He continued his football career at the University of Sioux Falls. He also played for the Worthington Razorbacks and Sioux Falls Stallions.
Today living in Sioux Falls, S.D., and holding down a couple of part-time jobs, he spends his free time helping to raise his two young children while pursuing a football dream that refuses to die.
A couple of years ago, Washington had his shoulders scoped. He plays with a ruptured bicep, though he claims he still retains strength in it. He has knee problems from the many years he played running back. He attempts to stay in football shape by lifting weights, but he admits he can’t extend his arms all the way up.
“The doctor said, ‘You’re 20-something, but your bones are 30 or 40,” Washington said this week.
Despite everything, he is thrilled to get to play in Worthington again.
“I saw the jerseys and I had to have it,” he said.
“I went to school there, and for me to get back there and get the opportunity to play — and bring the championship to Worthington ... and it’s gonna happen,” he vowed.
The structure and the comaraderie on the Huskerz team adds to his enjoyment level, Washington suggests, and football in general dovetails nicely with the fact that he likes puzzles — putting things together, figuring things out — like sudoku strategems.
“I like challenges. The game is fun. I really enjoy the competition, and the people around me, which motivates me to play harder,” he said.
Washington said he likes to feel as if he’s playing for others who can’t do it. He enjoys being a role model and hopes to coach someday.
McCuen, his current head coach, says people like Washington and Smith make his job a joy.
“He has tremendous, tremendous experience in the football world,” McCuen speaks of Washington. “He revitalized the linebacker position at USF (University of Sioux Falls). Not only is he a great person and a tremendous leader on the field, but he is off the field, too.”
Ditto for Smith, who established himself as a star basketball and football player years ago, who now — like Washington — is a devoted family man. Smith attended high school in Osseo, Minn., before playing football at the University of Minnesota. He also played with the Sioux Falls Stallions and was in camp with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.
“Our team picked them as captains because they knew they were leaders,” McCuen said. “(Darieon) is a very, very goal-oriented person. He’s relentless in everything he does. He will bend over backwards for everybody he knows.”