Leon Washington is returning to the New York Jets in a coaching role. ESM has three fun facts about the special teams hero.
A special teams hero is coming home to New York.
The New York Jets are welcoming back former running back Leon Washington to serve as an assistant to special teams coordinator Brant Boyer. Washington, 38, entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2006. The Florida State alum would go on to become a threat on both offense and special teams over four New York seasons, later spending time with Seattle, New England, and Tennessee.
With Washington looking to make an impact in his New York return, ESM has three fun facts about the newly minted coach…
He holds Jets (and NFL) records
With his NFL career beginning in 2006, Washington may well have been one of the first NFL stars to go “viral” during his time with the Jets. He left a particularly large mark on Jets history during an otherwise dreary 2007 season, a year where he not only scored three touchdowns via kick return (one of five in franchise history to take back at least two and the only one with three) but the 2,337 all-purpose yards he gained (including 353 on the ground) are a team record. For his efforts, Washington was named the Team MVP.
“It was a tremendous honor,” Washington said of the honor, per Eric Allen of NewYorkJets.com. “Obviously, one of the greatest compliments you can have is from your teammates because they’re in the thick of things with you, they grind with you, they work hard in practice with you, they fight in the games with you. A lot of times you might not get credit from people on the outside, but at least your teammates can see what’s going on.”
The eight scores from kickoffs Washington earned in his career, half of which came in green, are tied for the most in NFL history alongside Josh Cribbs and the active Cordarrelle Patterson. Washington is also one of only ten players to take back two kicks for touchdowns, doing so in a 2010 win over San Diego while with the Seahawks.
His first card caused controversy
Through no fault of his own, Washington was causing controversy before his career ever really began. His first rookie card, released by The Topps Company, was said to have featured Washington flashing double middle fingers. But the returner, whose gloved hands somewhat blended in his dark jersey, insisted that his hands were instead forming “E’s”…representing the east side of Jacksonville where he grew up.
“All it is is that I’m from the east side of Jacksonville, that’s my community,” Washington told the Associated Press at the time. “It looks funny, but maybe I should’ve taken the picture a different way. That’s all it really is, nothing more than that.”
While Washington quickly defused the controversy, the item became a valuable novelty amongst collectors. Despite Topps’ attempts to reel the card in, the AP reported that it drew in $100 bids on eBay.
His “retirement” has been anything but
Washington last played in 2014 but has remained active on the field through the Leon Washington Foundation, which has provided help and support to low-income families in his native Jacksonville area. More recently, Washington served as an assistant with the Detroit Lions on offense and special teams, earning the position through the William Clay Ford Minority Coaching Assistantship. This followed up coaching internships in Atlanta and Jacksonville. Washington also served as a training prescience in the weight room.
“Working in the weight room getting them prepared physically,” Washington said in Allen’s report. “With the returners, just sharing my knowledge of the game. Teaching them how to read punters, teaching them how to read kickers when they’re kicking the ball off. And with running backs, teaching them pass protection and how to run routes when they’re coming out of the backfield. Whatever the offensive coordinator or the special teams coordinator may need, I’m there to help.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags