When Marcus Washington was finishing high school four years ago, he was ready to give up football.
That all changed when a teacher mentioned Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to him, and this past fall Washington wrapped up his college football career.
A 2010 graduate of Frankfort High, Washington has also run track for the NCAA Div. III school located in Terre Haute, Ind.
He was part of a Fightin’ Engineers football team that steadily improved during his tenure, culminating with a co-championship in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference this past fall.
“This year we were conference champions,” Washington said, “and that really stood out from all the other years.”
At FHS Washington was a four-sport athlete, involved in football, track, basketball and baseball, but with his high school days winding down he wasn’t thinking about playing college sports.
In January 2010 he’d been accepted to the University of Louisville, and he’d lined up tuition and a roommate for U of L.
In February Rose-Hulman came into the picture.
“I knew I liked math and science,” Washington said. “William Leach Sr., who was a math teacher and assistant football coach at Frankfort High, is the one who got me into the school. He brought me up for my visit. He said ‘You like math and science. Have you thought about playing football in college?’”
Washington saw limited action his freshman season, playing in four varsity games in 2010.
He became a starter as a sophomore and earned his first varsity letter at cornerback. He finished the year with 54 tackles, including 37 solo tackles, and had a career-high 10 tackles against DePauw.
Washington switched to the offensive side of the ball his last two years, but the change didn’t faze him.
“They told me I’d do both when they recruited me,” he said. “It didn’t bother me because you do both at Frankfort High. You have 30 people on the team and 22 positions on offense and defense, so you have to play both sides of the ball.
“The two positions I played here I didn’t play at Frankfort. I played corner and receiver here because I’m smaller, but I guess in Class A I could get away with playing linebacker and running back.”
This past season he caught 17 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m kind of sad it’s over,” Washington said of his football career, “but I’m glad I went out with a conference championship. Our coach said when we were freshmen that we’d win a conference championship by the time we were seniors, so I’m glad I got to go out on top.”
Despite being conference co-champions, the Fightin’ Engineers didn’t make the NCAA Div. III playoffs. The automatic bid went to co-champion Franklin College, which beat RHIT in the regular season.
Washington was part of another conference championship, this one coming in track in 2012.
A member of the track team his sophomore and junior years, Washington ran the 60- and 200-meter dashes and the 4x200 relay in indoor track and the 200 in outdoor track.
“I tried to mix football and track practice together,” he said. “At track practice I’d do predominately track work, but when we went for weightlifting for track I’d do my football weightlifting. Some coaches weren’t happy, but it ended up working out. I got faster.”
Washington’s favorite event is the 4x200-meter relay, and that makes sense. In his senior year at FHS he was part of the 4x200-meter relay team that finished second in the Class A state meet. Also running on the team were Deshon Floyd, Aaron Hall and Georan Cardwell.
Athletics and academics are a balancing act Washington has been performing for years.
“It’s a lot harder,” he said about college, “but it helped in a way because I scheduled time for practice, for class, and I had plenty of time for homework.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I even wanted to play basketball. I have some friends who say I should try out for the team next year, but I’m not sure.”
Washington is scheduled to graduate in May 2015. A mechanical engineering major, he’s applied for an internship at Frito Lay and if he gets it would be working in Indianapolis.
“This gives me the most options to find a job after graduation,” Washington said about his major. “When I got here I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I had this opportunity. They told me to pick a major, and I asked which one gives me the most options. It worked out this way.”
Being at Rose-Hulman has worked out, too.
“I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met here,” Washington said. “People who visit me say it’s weird. We have an open door policy, and people leave their doors open in dorms all day and all night.
“It’s a very unique environment … I left my laptop, newly purchased books and my cell phone in a commons area, and I left them there overnight. I went back the next day and they were all in the same exact spot. It’s a weird place, but I like it.”