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He set a goal, reached it

Will Washington rushed for 37 TDs to lead Holy Spirit to a state crown.

Holy Spirit running back Will Washington finished as South Jersey's leading scorer for the second straight season, but that isn't what will leave a lasting impression with his coach, Bill Walsh.

What Walsh will remember is Washington's humility and how he overcame his tragic roots to become one of the top rushers in the region's history.

"I will never see another person like him again," Walsh said.

Washington rushed for 2,060 yards and scored 37 touchdowns and 226 points this season. All of those numbers led South Jersey and sparked Holy Spirit to a 12-0 record and the NJSIAA Non-Public 3 state championship.

It also earned Washington The Inquirer's South Jersey offensive player of the year award.

"We set a goal and worked hard in the weight room in the off-season," said Washington, whose single-season rushing total this year is sixth on the all-time South Jersey list, "and it worked out for the best."

Washington doesn't like to talk about his past, but he had a difficult childhood. When he was 12 years old, he lived in Jacksonville, Fla., and was being raised by his seriously ill father. In order to pay for his dad's medicine, Washington and his 10-year-old sister sold aluminum cans.

"Unfortunately, his dad died [less than two years later], and the state got involved and he was living in a home. The state tried to separate him from his sister and he wouldn't let it happen," Walsh said. "An aunt and uncle in Atlantic City adopted him. He's bounced around homes like a ping-pong ball, but for all this, for all he's been through, he walks around the hallways and is such a quiet, humble person. He doesn't want acclaim. He's the first to cheer for one of his teammates."

Keith Gorman, the Holy Spirit athletic director, has coached Washington on the school's baseball team. Until this year, Gorman also was a Holy Spirit football assistant.

"You see kids who are extremely gifted athletes and they're all about show," he said. "Will is the complete opposite. He wants no attention, no credit. He gives it to someone else. He's asked about his rushing records and he gives all the credit to the offensive line. He's genuine about it and he's unbelievably humble.

"It's very refreshing, because you don't see that in a lot of kids nowadays."

Washington, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound senior whose 4,793 career rushing yards rank fifth in South Jersey history, says his difficult childhood has "made me a better person. It helps me overcome the small things and always stay positive."

As for the future, Washington is drawing interest from a slew of major colleges, including Temple, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Maine, West Virginia and North Carolina State. If he doesn't qualify academically, he will probably go to a junior college before transferring to a Division I college down the road.

The powerfully built Washington runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and bench-presses 330 pounds. That combination of speed and power made him difficult to bring down. He carried the ball 227 times this year and averaged 9.1 yards per attempt.

But Walsh likes to talk more about Washington's character than his ability.

"Just the type of person he is," Walsh said. "That's what I'll always remember."