Sunday, May 20, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Darnell Washington was a “short and fat” third-grader at the beginning of the school year. By the time the year ended, he was the tallest kid in his class and had outgrown another set of clothing.
An avid football and basketball player, Washington’s size made him an attraction on the east Las Vegas playgrounds. He dominated, even against older children.
Washington, a sophomore at Desert Pines High, now stands 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds. And he is still dominating, helping the Jaguars win the football and basketball state championship this season.
The attention has gone to a completely different level.
One by one, college football recruiters have stopped by this spring to visit Washington and his teammates. The response is similar — coaches are amazed with his size.
While Washington’s build is more developed than most 16-year-olds, there’s still plenty of room to add bulk to the tight end’s frame. That’s one reason why coaches from all parts of the country are extending scholarship offers.
“He has an NFL body,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “They see the potential for growth in his body.”
Initially, Washington’s recruiting interest was limited to the region — Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, for instance. That changed two weeks ago when defending national champion Alabama made a rare stop in Las Vegas.
Washington received a scholarship offer. Two days later, another power — Oklahoma — extended an offer.
“I was just shocked,” said Washington, who recruiting service Rivals.com ranks as a four-star recruit, of the Alabama offer.
Admittedly, he’s far from a finished product.
Washington had about 400 receiving yards last season, which is expected when considering the Jaguars were a run-heavy team in 2017. He’s a good blocker but could be better, especially with his size, Rodriguez said.
“He could be so dominant,” Rodriguez said. “When he uses good technique, he is phenomenal.”
Washington has at least one scholarship offer from each Power 5 Conference, including Arkansas of the SEC, Nebraska and Minnesota of the Big Ten, USC and Oregon of the Pac-12, and Kansas of the Big 12.
He’ll be the first from his family to attend college on scholarship. He wants to study engineering and become the first from his family to become a college graduate.
“I’m not concerned with where I am going,” he said. “I just have to keep my head on straight and remain humble. I have to keep working.”
Washington said he doesn’t have a dream school and never envisioned himself playing in a certain league. In video games, he has favored LSU and Michigan.
He plans to make unofficial visits to schools this summer in his quest for a “good fit.”
Washington isn’t the lone Desert Pines player with major offers. 2020 recruits Jordan Butler and Jonathan Pickett Jr. each have USC offers. Running back Cameron Wiley, an incoming senior, has offers from the likes of Oregon, TCU and Utah.
“We have a lot of hidden gems here,” said Rodriguez of the Las Vegas area, where schools like Bishop Gorman, Liberty, Faith Lutheran and Arbor View send multiple players into college football annually.