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Ex-Desert Pines star Darnell Washington celebrates national title

Updated January 15, 2022 - 6:18 pm

As it rained black and red confetti after Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, it might have occurred to Darnell Washington that this is what it must be like to beat Bishop Gorman.

Desert Pines never got to play Gorman when he was playing tight end (and power forward) for the Jaguars. But Washington said knocking off Alabama — the Bishop Gorman of college football — for a national title was pretty special in its own right.

“Great experience, great atmosphere, great everything,” he said Friday during a phone interview. “That was one of my goals coming into college. There were other factors, but it pretty much came down to beating Alabama.”

Standing nearly 6 feet, 8 inches, weighing about 280 pounds, wearing conspicuous jersey No. 0 and possessing the ability to leap defensive backs in a single bound, the soft-spoken Washington was one of the nation’s premier recruits. His final five choices: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Miami and Tennessee.

After missing several games this season with a broken foot, he became part of Georgia’s three-headed tight end monster that included Bulldogs’ leading receiver Brock Bowers and John FitzPatrick. Washington caught one pass for 9 yards in Georgia’s 33-18 victory over Alabama.

“Growing up, I never had to share reps, but it worked fine,” Washington said. “During games, we’d just feed off the others’ success.”

Washington caught 10 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown during his sophomore season. One play stands out: Shortly after returning to the lineup, he reminded Bulldogs fans of his tremendous upside by hurdling a Kentucky defender in the open field after catching a pass.

One of his goals next season is to become more of a go-to guy while continuing to inspire others who come from impoverished backgrounds — Washington and his brother, Ezekiel, were raised by their single mother, Katrina Graves, who worked multiple low-wage jobs to feed and shelter her children.

Darnell was asked if his mom was proud of him for having beaten mighty Alabama.

“She’s proud of me after any game,” he said with a chuckle sweeter than a Georgia peach.

UNLV desperate for support

It has come to this: UNLV is bribing students with an offer of free sneakers if they will start coming to basketball games. (The school is calling it a loyalty incentive.)

To get a pair of custom Nikes, students must attend the final six men’s games of the season and one women’s game. And they can’t leave at halftime. Can you imagine this happening at Duke? Or even Grand Canyon? (Check out the Antelopes’ student section on YouTube when you have a chance.)

The students don’t return to campus for spring classes until Tuesday, so $5 tickets were offered to last week’s game against New Mexico to help “Pack the Mack” or whatever. The Mack remained unpacked — only 3,860 showed.

Jerry Tarkanian’s teams used to get that many for practice.

Brevin Jordan catching on

Bishop Gorman product Brevin Jordan had a nice rookie season with the Houston Texans, catching 20 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns in nine games.

The tight end was taken by the Texans in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft after catching 105 passes for 1,358 yards and 13 TDs for the Miami Hurricanes.

Local girls carrying flag

Maci Joncich, a wide receiver at Coronado, and Liberty products Kiona Westerlund (receiver, running back) and Trystin Mitchell (defensive line) have been named to USA Football’s 15-under national flag football team.

Basic receiver Marley Spielberg was selected for the 17U team, with Bishop Gorman’s Teliyah-Judith McInnis (receiver, defensive back) earning alternate status.

The local standouts are in Tampa, Florida, playing friendlies at the Flag Football Life championships ahead of a global flag football series hosted by USA Football in June.

0:01

The Super 70s Sports Twitter account, commenting on a photo of Playboy magazine’s 1978-79 college basketball All-America team that included luminaries such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Darrell Griffith and Bill Cartwright — and not so luminous Ron Perry of Holy Cross:

“(The) Holy Cross guy is still telling his friends about this and none of them believe him.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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