Lorenzo Washington's high school coach reflects on death of former Alabama football lineman, 34

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News

Before he became Clemson’s safeties coach and special teams coordinator, Mickey Conn was the head coach for over a decade at Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia, helping establish it as a regional power.

A key player early in that process was Lorenzo Washington, who went on to be the first FBS signee out of Grayson High School. The former Alabama defensive lineman  died at age 34 on Sunday. Looking back on his time with Washington, Conn described him as, “all the good things you can think of in a kid.”

“A lot of times you can’t talk to young people, but he was a person you could sit down and have a conversation with,” Conn said. “He was a fun kid. It’s tragic, what happened.”

In his time at UA, Washington was most productive in 2007, when he tallied 36 tackles, 4½ for loss and three sacks. He remained a contributor through his redshirt senior season in 2009, when he had five tackles for loss and two sacks, with one of those tackles for loss coming in the national championship game against Texas.

“He was an integral part of our 2009 national championship team, a wonderful son, father, friend and a loved teammate,” UA coach Nick Saban said in a statement.

Conn remembers Washington starting his Grayson career as a “tall and slender kid, and man he wanted to do good in that weight room.” Through that desire, Washington made the most of his body, ultimately arriving at UA as a four-star prospect and one of the top defensive linemen in the nation.

Washington’s football career was littered with leadership turnover. After playing for Conn at Grayson, he spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy before enrolling at Alabama, where his first two seasons doubled as Mike Shula’s last as UA’s head coach. All told, he played for two head coaches (Shula and Saban), three defensive coordinators and three defensive line coaches in five seasons at UA, all before stints on the practice squad of four NFL teams.

In each change of leadership, Washington was looked upon favorably.

“He was an easygoing guy. He’s a guy who would follow whoever’s in charge and not try to buck the system in any way,” Conn said. “He was a full team guy. He cheered for his teammates to do well and do whatever it took to play.”

In high school, that meant taking on the load of a position that was not his path to the NFL.

“He was being recruited as a defensive end but he wasn’t too big to play offensive line,” Conn said. “At one point in time we were building our program and he had to play both, he had to go both ways and he did it without a complaint or a worry in the world.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson