“To be honest, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t,” Washington said. “I was shocked to be honest with you, because coming from Samford — FCS — guys sleep on the conference. But we ball just like everybody else. I’m excited. I’m lost for words. I’m shaking kind of still. I’m just glad to have this opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it for sure.”
Washington said he thinks it’s unlikely that he would have made it to this point without his performance in the Florida game, and the Broncos are hoping that he’ll be able to recreate those kinds of feats in the NFL.
There’s good reason to believe that could be case; Washington returned three punts or kicks for touchdowns in 2021.
“To be back there and catch those punts, catch those kickoffs and have all of those guys running down at you — it’s a very unique talent,” Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “It’s hard to find guys like that. I think that’s something that having experience on special teams in my past and knowing [Special Teams] Coach [Dwayne] Stukes, that was just so critical for our team to find somebody that can bring that.”
The search for a return specialist will bring an open competition during the offseason. But the Broncos said they won’t be limiting him to just that role.
“We just thought he had some dynamic traits as a return man — as a receiver as well,” Paton said. “He’s a slot receiver. He’s really good with the ball in his hands. He has incredible ball skills. As a punt returner, as a kick returner, Coach Stukes thought he would be our guy. We’ll see. He has to go earn it. He has some dynamic traits that you can’t teach. We feel he will upgrade us there.”
As a player who watched the classic highlight reels that Devin Hester produced during his career, Washington wants to create those game-breaking plays in the NFL, to “do my job as a return man and flip the field.”
“There’s nothing like that feeling because — yeah, I scored, but in my opinion, I don’t score; my team scores,” Washington said. “The guys that block for me have to block. They have to risk their body to make just a block. Small things — some guys look over that. Me as a returner, that means the most to me. If they make big blocks, that means I have to score. If they make a great block, I have to score. It’s my job to pull if it’s their job to block. If they’re doing the hard work, my job should be easy. All I have to do is run. I’ll make the most of it for my guys.”