Position: Wide receiver
High School: North Charleston
Pro: New York Giants (rookie free agent)
If Corey Washington is not on the New York Giants' roster when the team opens the 2014 NFL season, it won't be because the rookie wide receiver from North Charleston hasn't caught the attention of folks in the Big Apple.
The Giants are 3-0 heading into Friday's preseason matchup with the Jets and in each of those three wins Washington has caught the game-clinching touchdown.
Could that streak continue against the Jets?
"Hopefully we'll be up a lot and I won't have a chance to catch a game-winner," Washington said in a phone interview Wednesday. "It seems unreal. I'm really humbled."
Playing in front of huge crowds and seeing himself on ESPN highlights are all new experiences to Washington, who was playing at tiny Newberry College (1,042 students) a year ago.
"I'm out here having fun," he said. "Coming from (Newberry), I'm trying to show I can play on this level, can make plays on this level. It's been a good experience so far."
In his NFL debut, Washington caught one pass - a 73-yard play for the game-winning TD against the Buffalo Bills. He followed that with three catches and the winning 3-yard reception against Pittsburgh. And last week against Indianapolis, Washington's 4-yard score capped a three-catch game.
Jimmy Brown, Washington's coach at North Charleston High School, recognized the talent early on. He also saw potential problems before Washington's junior year, and took steps to head them off.
Brown, who says he still has a father-son relationship with Washington, noticed the young wide receiver was slacking off, doing only enough to get by. So Brown refused to let him play in games.
"He owned up and took responsibility and accountability for his actions," Brown said. "He practiced with us every day and on Friday night he was the best ballboy I ever had. He actually made us better because we were going up against top-notch talent on the scout team."
The switch flipped the following summer on a hot, rainy August day during practice. It was a weekend the team spent eating, sleeping and practicing while sequestered in the gym. Brown held Washington back after morning workouts while the rest of the team went inside for showers and lunch.
"Who is the best wide receiver in the Lowcountry?" Brown asked Washington.
"Uh, A.J. Green?" Washington answered, referring to the future NFL star from Summerville.
"Wrong answer," Brown replied before sending Washington out for a series of sprints.
Brown asked the question again and Washington offered, "It ain't A.J.?" More sprints followed.
The third time Brown asked Washington, the lanky senior tentatively answered, "Corey Washington?"
"He didn't say it with the conviction I wanted, so he did some more gassers," Brown said. "We were out there a good 20 minutes in the rain, just me and him. Every time he came to me he would have to say, 'My name is Corey Washington and I'm the best wide receiver in the state of South Carolina.' After that, he just took off. We went up against Stratford in Sertoma and he caught two touchdowns against them in one quarter."
Washington, who was raised by his grandparents Betty and Earl Polite, said the measures taken by Brown had a positive impact.
"That was a good learning experience," he said. "It showed me that time doesn't wait on anybody. You have to get those grades. That's the number one priority. If I could offer advice to kids it would be: Have respect. Give respect. Stay with the books. Don't do drugs. Hard work pays off."
Washington made all-state as a senior and drew interest from major schools. But junior college was his best option so he signed with Georgia Military College. He starred on the football team and finished with a 3.3 grade point average, good enough to qualify for South Carolina's LIFE Scholarship, said Newberry coach Todd Knight.
"I thought that was impressive, for a kid that struggled in high school, to go down there in a military setting and flourish the way he did," Knight said.
During his two seasons at Newberry, Washington caught 95 passes for 1,615 yards and 22 touchdowns. But players from Division II schools rarely are selected in the NFL draft. Washington signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals in May but was cut after two weeks. The Giants picked him up the next day and Washington has been making his presence known during preseason camps.
"The kid's a natural athlete, a freak of nature," Knight said. "It's not a shock to me one bit that he is doing it at that level. He just needed an opportunity. He's the biggest receiver (6-4) on the Giants' roster. He's a great red zone threat for them, just like he was for us."
The first roster cuts - down to 75 players - will take place Tuesday. The Giants have kept six wide receivers on their opening week roster every season except one since Tom Coughlin has been coach. Washington is fourth on the most recent depth chart.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Washington has done a good job making plays in practice and games but needs to improve his routes and techniques.
"I'm hoping I'm going to make this team, but if I don't I'm going to be playing someplace on Sunday," Washington said.
So, who is the best wide receiver in the Lowcountry?
"Myself," Washington said with a laugh. "I'm the best receiver in the Lowcountry."
New York Giants wide receiver Corey Washington (6) makes a catch for a touchdown against Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Isaiah Green (39) in the fourth quarter of a preseason NFL football game on Aug. 9 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)×
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