Oklahoma football: Uncle's death has motivated R.J. Washington to play better

The Sooners' senior defensive end said, “I wish I could be 10 percent the man he was.”
by Stephanie Kuzydym Published: October 18, 2012

“Not now,” Washington said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What did you say?' I said, ‘Please not now.' And he said, ‘Get out of this meeting.'

“I walked out of the room, and I lost it. I broke down in the hallway.”

Walker said as far as Washington's sense of emotions, he's seen him angry many times. But sad? That was the first time.

“I put my arm around him and helped him as much as I could,” Walker said. “I tried to give him the same encouragement he gave me.”

Then he told him to focus on the game. Maybe it would help.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops called the last two games — against Texas Tech then Texas — the best football Washington's played at Oklahoma. Cornerback Aaron Colvin saw Washington step up as more of an impact player, but Colvin's eyes widened when asked if he thought Washington's improved performance was a tribute to the loss of his uncle.

“He did?” Colvin asked. “Wow, I got way more respect for him now that I know that. He's been playing great these past couple of weeks.”

Washington was unsure of the type of cancer his great uncle battled. The obituary was published in The Dallas Morning News, and the last line read: “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Legacy Brain Foundation….” The Legacy Brain Foundation, based in Dallas, fights brain cancer.

The type of cancer didn't matter to Washington. The type of man did.

As Washington glanced across the line at Texas Tech, he knew what McFarland said was right. He could feel it.

“It was like a spurt of energy,” Washington said.

During that game, Washington said his Uncle Kelly was on his mind. Washington said he thinks in some way it has changed how he played the game.

“If I could be more like him,” Washington said, “more patient and more caring, I'd be a better man.”

by Stephanie Kuzydym
Reporter
Stephanie Kuzydym learned at a young age that life is a game of inches. That's just one reason why she loves football. Kuzydym joined The Oklahoman in July 2012. Before arriving in the state, Kuzydym was an intern for the sports departments at...
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