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RJ Washington Working To Become A Difference Maker

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RJ Washington sacks Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg in last season's Insight Bowl (AP Photo) RJ Washington sacks Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg in last season's Insight Bowl (AP Photo)
NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Four years ago, RJ Washington was the toast of the Oklahoma Sooners' 2008 recruiting class. The big defensive end from Keller, Texas was the No. 1 player at his position and No. 13 overall in the entire country.

Many Sooner fans expected Washington to follow in the footsteps of great Sooner defensive linemen such as Lee Roy Selmon, Tommie Harris, and Dusty Dvoracek.

When Washington got to Norman, he disappeared. Not literally of course, but he made zero impact on the field for the OU defense. In fact, he barely saw the field at all.

"I didn't really out-work anyone," Washington said. "I thought I'd just turn it on and get a sack. That's what happened in high school. I randomly started as a sophomore and got two sacks in my first game. I started the rest of the season and it was downhill from there."

Washington's statistics were almost embarrassing for someone with as much natural ability and a great combination of size and speed. After redshirting in 2008, Washington first took the field in 2009, making three total tackles and half a sack. The next season, he played in nine games and made four tackles.

"I feel like I didn't deserve what they gave me," Washington said about the attention OU gave him as a recruit. "I was athletic, but who isn't athletic in college? Since they (OU) gave me so much, I never worked."

Finally, the light seemed to come on for Washington last season. He became a regular part of the regular defensive end rotation, and started to show signs of the five-star recruit that signed with OU three years before.

Washington played in all 13 games, making 16 tackles and five sacks. He also broke up five passes.

This season, with former defensive ends Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander in the NFL, it's up to Washington to make the plays Lewis and Alexander made all last season.

"I feel like Frank and Ronnell made a ton of plays," Washington said. "I feel more prepared than I ever have been. I'm gonna get in the game and I'm not going to be worried about it because I put in the work for that."

Washington admits he wasn't always prepared to play, and the lack of preparation was the main reason behind his lack of productivity.

"Earlier, last season, seasons before that, I was going out there and just hoping it all came together," Washington admitted. "Now, I'm prepared, so I know it's happening."

You won't hear excuses from Washington for the paltry numbers he put up in his first few seasons, and he knows the time has come for him to be a difference-maker for a defense that is searching for such players.

"Everybody's sitting back saying, ‘Maybe we should have done a little bit more,'" Washington said. "I've had that feeling here too many times. I'm trying to not ever have that feeling again."

So what can we expect out of Washington this season?

"I'm going to have as much fun this season as I can," Washington said with a laugh. "It is crazy to think I've been here half a decade. Time flies."

You can also count on Washington to put in a lot of work toward being a leader for the OU defense. Both head coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops have praised Washington at every opportunity, and always mention him as someone who has worked extremely hard at becoming a better, stronger player.

"I feel like you have to go into every day getting the most you can get," Washington said. "It's the little things because everybody's got talent."

Washington knows his late emergence is a bit of a disappointment for OU fans who wanted to see another stud defensive lineman. He wanted to be that lineman as well.

"I wanted to blow up just like everyone wanted me to blow up," Washington admits. "It didn't happen that way, and maybe it didn't happen that way for a reason."

Despite the disappointment, Washington isn't regretting anything, but instead, he's just working hard, and having fun doing it.

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