It’s natural to be intrigued by the phenomena that is Penn State receiver Parker Washington. As a freshman he made 36 catches over the span of nine games for 489 yards and six touchdowns and perhaps more importantly to the point, he made it look easy. And in the hellscape that was 2020, watching Parker Washington introduce himself to the world was a pleasant and welcome surprise.
And there is something special about that, because no matter how much fans might clamor for freshman to play, no matter how much everyone wants to see the new kid on the block shine, they all understand something: it’s hard to play as a freshman. It’s hard to line up against guys who have been in a weight program for a few years and it’s hard to line up and beat a corner or a safety that has watched more film and been to more practices than you. The chips are stacked against you.
Unless in the case of Washington, they aren’t. And that’s impressive.
Because in terms of the passage of time – the Sugar Land, Texas native played last season closer to having attended his prom and driver’s ed classes than he did being old enough to drink or even sniff the NFL. For all the exciting things he did, this kid is, well, still a kid.
“I think the next step is just getting comfortable with seeing the defenses and identifying what they’re doing a lot more,” Washington said on Tuesday. “Being a young player, that comes over time, so I feel like I’m doing pretty good with that right now.
“Coach always talks about the IQ. He’s like sometimes you got 100 level, we need to add 200 level IQ. So we’re definitely working on that, and I’m working with him every day on that, it is definitely paying off during the spring.”
One can’t really put a finger on where all this *it* factor comes from. Sometimes you’re just born with it. Of course there’s something to be said for the preparation that goes into it as well. For all the mind-blowing things Saquon Barkley did, the good lord may have given him some talent, but Barkley had to hone the rest.
So for every catch on the field there might be a hundred more you didn’t see off of it.
“I felt like my confidence came from just some of the preparation I had during the offseason,” Washington said, “and I felt very excited, and was just eager to get on the field at Penn State because it’s like, it’s a dream. So, I was really excited for that. l felt like the preparation brought my confidence.”
There’s a lot that’s going to be written about Washington both this summer and probably the rest of his career. The fact of the matter is though Washington and his teammates will have to get better if the words written about them are going to match the potential they have on the field.
But this isn’t lost on someone like Washington, you don’t end up having a good freshman season by mistake. And sure you need to have good passes thrown to you and that means good pass protection and good routes and a good defense to help the offense. It means all sorts of things that Washington can’t control will have to be worked out.
It also means handling the simple things that he can control, like chemistry with quarterback Sean Clifford or a more refined understanding of defenses. All of it adds up. The good news is that with the world slowly but surly returning to normal, there’s more and more time for Washington to work on those things.
And the benefits of that are immeasurable.
“I feel like getting this time in spring ball is really helping us because we didn’t necessarily get that chemistry last year, and you can definitely see it in the whole receivers room and how everybody is just connecting now,” Washington said. “It’s looking really good, and I’m excited for it.”
An judging by his introduction, there’s plenty more to be excited about now just 178 receptions away from tying Penn State’s record held by DaeSean Hamilton.