Does Blackmon | Al Washington brings what Notre Dame needs


When Al Washington and Will Blackmon were standout performers for Boston College nearly two decades ago, there wasn’t much talk about the future of coaching.

OK, that was not discussed.

“Oh my God, no,” Blackmon said. “Surely not. No. Think about it, we’re in college and we’re rookies at the highest level you can play. Back then we were in the Big East and then we moved to the ACC , two divisions that were Power-5 and we competed.

“Training in the future wasn’t even on the mind at all. It was, ‘Hey, let’s try to get this thing. Let’s try to go play in the NFL. “

Blackmon would embark on an NFL career with the Packers, Giants, Jaguars and Redskins while Washington would quickly rise through the coaching ranks after college.

Looking back, Blackmon realizes that Washington already possessed many of the traits that would lead to success as a coach when they met.

“His demeanor, how he approached his job, his intensity was evident from day one,” says Blackmon. “That’s what stood out to me the most and I’m sure that’s what the other coaches saw too, how intense he was. How really serious everything was.

“He had a great personality and a great sense of humor, which is why he and I got along well, but we complemented each other. We were both hard workers. But he was probably more mature than me.

Matt Freeman

Washington’s behavior immediately jumped out at Blackmon.

As roommates, Blackmon witnessed this maturity right away at Chestnut Hill, where the duo saw time to perform like proper freshmen in 2002.

“He was big on taking care of his body at 18,” Blackmon recalled. “He always ate the good stuff. Sleeping well was important to him.

Washington had a specific evening routine. He ate his meal, pumped up his music, rolled out his personal mat and stretched.

“He would stretch every night,” Blackmon says. “Literally to the point where Al was flexible enough to do the splits.”

Washington was a strong proponent of flexibility to prevent injury.

“Instead of me thinking, ‘Hey, you should stretch too,’ I was just watching him stretch and going, ‘What is this guy doing?'” Blackmon laughed. “I’m like, ‘We’re going to stretch as a team tomorrow.’

“He’s like, ‘No, I have to get it early, so I can take care of my body.’ It was like little things like that. Even while studying, he was always attentive to detail. That’s what I really admire about Al.

Washington may not have been a loud or rowdy leader, but it was clear to everyone that the team was paramount.

“Everything he did was to improve the team,” says Blackmon. “He knew if he was at his best, it gave our team the best chance to compete. He was always about his teammates. He was always team first, team first. He had everyone’s back, no matter who it was.

During a game at Virginia during Washington’s senior season, a Cavalier offensive lineman took a cheap shot at Mathias Kiwanuka, diving into the back of the BC star defensive end’s knees.

“Al just lost it and went after the dude,” Blackmon recalled.

Washington was sent off for defending his teammate.

“He knew it was wrong,” says Blackmon. “You’re not doing that. He was ready to take one for the team because that was what it was all about. Al’s style as a player is that he first leads with love. Everything mattered to him. »

This led Washington to successfully lead groups of positions at his alma mater, Michigan, Ohio State and other stops on his way to Notre Dame, where he was hired as the Irish defensive line coach this offseason.

Rick Kimball/ISD

Washington’s team mentality seems instinctive.

Washington has also had success recruiting well enough to have top talent to coach.

“It’s because he’s real,” Blackmon says of Washington’s success on the recruiting trail. “At the end of the day, it’s authenticity, keeping it honest, keeping it real.

“He’s not going to sell you smoke or mirrors. He is who he is. I think that’s why he was so successful in finding these kids and getting along with them.

It’s easy to advise a prospect to choose a school over a coach, but in reality, coaches still play a huge role in the selection process.

“I think back to when I was a rookie, the guy I signed up with was the guy I got along with the best and that was Jason Swepson at BC,” Blackmon says. “It was Swep who recruited me. He was the one who took me away from (Notre Dame) and from all the others at the time.

“I think that’s just what it’s all about, man. It’s cool that he went through the process. He was in this situation. He saw it from all angles. He had the chance to not only play in high-profile programs, but also coach and recruit in high-profile programs. He really got to see what it looks like in the grand scheme of things. He has access to all these unique pipelines to recruit.

“He has the resume to be who he is and that’s pretty much what Notre Dame needs.”

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