Two years ago, John Washington was thrust into the Tara High School starting lineup as a 130-pound freshman.
Last year, a series of injuries, including a concussion, kept Washington on the sideline for several games.
Tara coach Ron LeJeune hopes the third time around is the charm for his junior quarterback.
“I’m impressed with how far John has come,” LeJeune said. “We had to put him out there sooner than he needed to be when he was a freshman. And then last year he got hurt.
“He’s gotten so much better with his mechanics and his footwork. And he sees the field better and makes the right decisions.”
LeJeune and the other Tara coaches got to scrutinize Washington’s play during a series of a seven-on-seven contests over the summer. They had few complaints.
Tara, which went 3-7 in 2010, lost only one seven-on-seven game all summer and finished 4-0 in a tournament at LSU.
“I’m more confident, but I know there are things I have to work on, like being a vocal leader,” Washington said. “I’m not used to that.
“I’m learning to speak up. After we’d lift weights or play seven-on-seven, I’d ask the receivers to stay a little longer. That definitely helped with our timing.”
The 5-foot-9, 164-pound Washington also put in time at home over the summer. He used a set of cones to run agility drills to improve his footwork and threw footballs through a tire to improve his accuracy.
Washington’s desire to work, tinker and even experiment to get better is part of his nature. He plans a college major in mechanical engineering and when he’s not playing football, Washington has done home repairs on a game system and a television.
The addition of two new receivers should help Washington make the right connections on the field.
Aaron Wright started his career at Tara and played at Glen Oaks before returning to Tara during the 2010-11 school year. Xavier Mays moved to Baton Rouge from Virginia after the 2010 football season ended.
“My receivers are doing a good job,” Washington said. “We just need to stay together on the same page and keep working.”
Tara’s decision to go with a spread offensive system developed by Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Tony Franklin seems to suit Washington, too.
“What it (Franklin system) does is simplify the running game and it allows you to play at a much faster face,” LeJeune said. “That works well for John and for the receivers we have.”
An improved offensive line and a strict script that includes few planned running plays for Washington figure to be other improvements, LeJeune said.
While Washington took a break from Wednesday’s practice, a younger Tara player waited patiently. As he moved back toward the practice field, Washington pointed the youngster in the right direction for the next round of passing drills.
Tara running backs coach Moe Pointer looked at Washington and smiled.
“Boy, am I glad that you’re here,” Pointer said. “Let’s run it!”
Pointer continued to smile as he watched Washington drop back, cock his left arm and fire a series of strikes toward each sideline. The Tara assistant coach recalled seeing Washington compete for the Jaguars as a 12-year-old in a BREC league.
“You could see then John had all the tools to be a good quarterback,” Pointer said. “Now that he’s gotten older, it’s almost like the game has slowed down for him. Things really are moving fast, but he’s in control.”