Running from Dad’s Shadow

John David Washington, son of actor Denzel Washington, has dreams of making it back to the NFL./Photo Credit: Dennis Freeman II
John David Washington, son of actor Denzel Washington, has dreams of making it back to the NFL./Photo Credit: Dennis Freeman II

Standing in the shadows of an American icon can be a pretty daunting task if your father is Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington. But John David Washington, Denzel’s son, decided he was going to draw up his own path to success, choosing to play football. That path has mandated no shortcut on John David’s part.

If anything, it’s been an uphill battle for the Morehouse College graduate to become a stabilizing force on the professional football level. After being signed to a free agent contract as an undrafted rookie by the St. Louis Rams in 2006, John David clung to the team for two seasons as a practice squad player. When that welcome mat was taken away from him, John David didn’t pack the bags and give up on playing football.

Instead, he caught on with two pro teams in Europe for a season before splashing down with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League. The journey to football fame may call him eventually, but John David is now in a place where stability can be instrumental to him as he chases his NFL dream. At 5-foot-9, 208 pounds, John David is more of a squatter compared to his famous dad.

But that hasn’t stopped the 27-year-old running back from earning his keep as a professional football player. In his third season with the Mountain Lions, John David has had moderate success with the team, placing second on the squad in rushing yards last year. Those numbers are not as gaudy as the stats that John David put up at Morehouse during his college career, which saw him rush for 3,669 yards and 34 touchdowns in just 41 games.  

Instead of being the man on a team, John David has become just one player on a professional football roster in a league that has many former NFL players. His role, however, is a vital one as he showed in the Mountain Lions’ 33-30 defeat to the Omaha Nighthawks on Saturday. John David rushed for 114 yards and scored a touchdown on 14 carries in the loss. But his big day didn’t compensate for the team’s defeat.

Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington catches John David's big day in Sacramento./Photo Credit: Dennis Freeman II

“I’d trade every yard in for a W, or some points,” John David Washington said. “It’s about winning in this league.  Ultimately, you want to go to the NFL, but they won’t look at the losers, they look at winners.  I want to win.  I’m extremely proud of our fans.  They really kept us going in this game.  Sacramento crowd, I can’t say enough about them. I wanted personally to run more and more, to help the defense, slow the game down and give them their rest.”

There is no rest for the weary. John David may be called upon to duplicate the kind of game he produced. If he does, he may get that phone call asking him to come back to the NFL. The Mountain Lions have a coach (Dennis Green) who knows a thing or two about grooming up and coming football talent for NFL success.

As a one-time coach for the Minnesota Vikings, Green oversaw the coming out party of future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss and the mercurial career of quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who played for the Mountain Lions last season.

 With Green widely regarded as a master talent developer, John David could soon see his NFL stock rise if he produces a couple of monster games. At least that’s the goal.



Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1315 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.