By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Father’s Day means more to the Buffalo Bills’ Adolphus Washington then just sending a card, or buying a present.
Washington, the Bills’ 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman, will be back home in Cincinnati on Father’s Day spending time with his father, Adolphus, Sr., the man who raised him, and the man who helped keep his football career alive when it almost ended.
“I look forward to Father’s Day,’’ Washington said. “It’s always a big day for me, an important day.’’
There are no big plans, no outlandish gifts, or vacations, just a true family get together, now with the younger Washington’s two children, his son, Dre’Zaughn and daughter, A’Maryah, as well.
“We’ll just get together, go out and have a nice dinner somewhere,’’ Washington said. “He’s really not into material things, so we’ll just go out and get a nice dinner. The big thing really is just spending time together.’’
The two Washingtons have spent time together as father and son, and mentor and student, for as long as the younger Washington can remember.
“My father raised me,’’ he said. “My parents had their relationship troubles and I always stayed with my father. That’s just how it was. From the time I was really young, that’s all I remember.’’
The elder Washington, who according to his son is about 6-6 and over 300 pounds, was a pretty good football player in his day. He played for the hometown University of Cincinnati, quit the team, transferred to a junior college played another year and quit again.
“He’s always said he regretted it,’’ Washington said of his father giving up football. “He was good, too. He would tell me stories (about his football success) and I believed him. But I would also hear them from his friends and guys back in the neighborhood. They all said he could have made it (to the NFL). When you hear that kind of thing from other people, you really believe it.’’
So, when the younger Washington thought about quitting football his sophomore year at Ohio State, he called his father, and the short, but poignant, message got through.
“Things just weren’t going well for me,’’ he said. “I had gotten hurt. I wasn’t happy with the coaches. I didn’t think they were looking out for me. I was just down. I thought I would just quit, go home, and do something else.’’
Then he called his father, but instead of getting a shoulder to cry on, he got a dose of reality from the man who didn’t want his son to make the same mistake he made years earlier.
“I called him and told him that I was done and I wanted to come home. He told me if I quit and came home, I wasn’t staying with him,’’ Washington said. “He wouldn’t let me do it. He said he wasn’t taking care of a grown man, that I would be on my own. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all of that. So, it kind of woke me up. He wanted more from me. He wanted me to do better.’’
After the conversation with his father, Washington became dedicated to the sport. He became a full-time starter as a junior for the Buckeyes and helped them to the 2014 BCS Championship. That season, the big lineman had 48 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks, including one of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (now the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback) in the national title game.
“Things just all started to come together,’’ Washington said. “It got to me becoming a third-round Draft pick in the NFL.’’
Washington played more than expected as a rookie for the Bills in 2016, and recorded 21 tackles, two for a loss and had 2.5 sacks. This season, as the Bills transform to a 4-3 defense under new head coach Sean McDermott, which is more familiar to him, he could flourish even more.
And while he’s a grown man now and playing the game as the highest level, Adolphus Washington, Jr. knows who helped make it all possible.
“Definitely,’’ he said. “I’m always trying to make my Dad proud. But I have to do it for myself and my kids now. I’m trying to show them, and teach them the right things.’’