Two weeks after a stellar performance at the NFL Combine, former ACU offensive lineman Tony Washington confirmed his status as a registered sex offender via a statement to www.sportsfanlive.com.
Washington is registered in compliance with Texas Penal Code 25.02, prohibited sexual behavior, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Record. Washington was 16 years old at the time of the offense and was placed on probation for five years.
ACU Head Coach Chris Thomsen said Washington’s recent strong performance at the NFL Combine brought the 2003 conviction to light.
“He’s a guy that went to the Combine and did very well. If you have a strong performance people do research and want to see where you came from,” Thomsen said. “The first thing you want to know with a guy of that size is why he is from a small school. A reporter did some digging and called and asked me some questions.”
Washington confirmed the 2003 conviction and apologized for his actions. NFL and college sources say Washington was convicted of having consensual sex with his 15-year-old sister, according to Sportsfanlive.com. When contacted this week, Washington declined to comment.
Washington transferred to ACU in 2008 after spending a year at Trinity Valley Community College. After the 2007 season. when Thomsen considered bringing Washington to ACU, Washington was open about his past.
“When we started recruiting him, he was very up front with us,” Thomsen said. “I always like to do as much background as I can. The guy that brought him to Trinity Valley is a guy I trust, and I asked him to tell me about Tony. After talking to him and other people, I just felt like he was a guy we wanted to give an opportunity to.”
Before being admitted to ACU, Washington had to go through the same process as all potential students with criminal backgrounds. Thomsen said Washington had to receive approval from Athletic Director Jared Mosley, Police Chief Jimmy Ellison, Jean- Noel Thompson, vice president and dean for Student Life, and President Royce Money.
“When any student has a background issue, there is extensive work done to make sure that person will be a positive member of the community,” Thomsen said. “We went through that process and felt like giving an opportunity.”
Thomsen said Washington’s issues were in his past and that he never had any off-the-field issues while at ACU. Mark Sartain, Washington’s coach at Trinity Valley, said the perception of Washington’s “character issues” all stem from the conviction seven years ago. Sartain said Washington has grown from the incident.
“I know Tony has grown tremendously, and he has matured a great deal as a young man under Coach Thomsen’s guidance,” Sartain said. “That’s why we wanted him at ACU, because we knew he’d be under good guidance there. I saw a young man who was willing to accept the consequences and move forward in the pursuit of his dreams.”
Sartain, who has since become head coach at East Texas Baptist University, said people need to recognize Washington for who he is now, not who he was seven years ago.
“They need to know who he is now and not something he did when he was 16,” Sartain said. “None of us want a tag from one event as a youth. We all have embarrassing situations in our past. They need to check the body of evidence since then.”
Media coverage of Washington has exploded since the Sportsfanlive.com report was released Monday. Media outlets from the Abilene Reporter News to The Huffington Post have offered varying levels of coverage and analysis.
Washington was the fourth former Wildcat under Thomsen to participate in the NFL Combine, the premiere scouting event for college football. Washington was a “top performer” among the offensive linemen in four of the seven general workout categories, according to www.nfl.com. His 33 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds were good for sixth best among the offensive linemen.
Both Thomsen and Sartain agree Washington has a future in the NFL. Thomsen said Washington has a chance to be a productive NFL player, and Sartain said Washington has the tools to succeed at the next level.
“He has as much ability as anybody in the draft, and he has as much upside as anybody who has ever played the position,” Sartain said. “He’s got every physical gift. If you were going to sit down and draw a prototype of the perfect physical offensive lineman, you’d have to put his picture beside it.”
Sartain said he hopes the conviction won’t affect Washington’s draft positioning or follow him for the rest of his life.
“How do we want to be judged, by one event in our lifetime?” Sartain said. “I hope people can swallow that pill. He shouldn’t have to carry this for the rest of his life.”