"I would have liked to have played college football on the same team as my little brother," Washington said. "But I got to see three of his games last year, and my folks saw most of his and several of mine."
Although Joe Washington is noted as an outside runner who can become almost invisible when returning punts and kickoffs, Oklahoma coaches are not reluctant to order his 5'10", 184-pound body into the middle of the line. Against Texas last season, Washington ran the halfback counter—a simple play designed to hit over guard—15 times and got 75 of his 124-yard total out of it. Darrell Royal says, "We figure if a really good back ran that play at us 15 times he might get 30 yards, not 75. But we never knew where Washington was going. He would start toward right guard and pop up disappearing around left end."
"Sometimes I do things that surprise me when I see them on film," said Washington. "In the Kansas game last year a guy reached for me and I just took his hand and moved it away, like that wasn't a polite thing to do. But it's not usually that easy. People get mad and bite me, twist my legs, stick their fingers in my mask and try to claw my eyes." He laughed at the thought of it. "In the Baylor game I was lying on the ground and a guy walked over and kicked me. I looked up at him and couldn't believe it."
Washington admitted he had played a bit uncertainly against Oregon. Partly that was because of the rain-sloshed artificial turf ( Washington says artificial turf takes much of the "boyish feeling" out of the game) and partly because Switzer holds Washington and several other regulars out of scrimmages.
"Not scrimmaging is a good way to keep from getting hurt," Washington said. "But I hadn't had any real contact since the Oklahoma State game last year, and it took me a while to settle down. I was used as a blocker on most of our first 30 plays. I like to block, but I like to run with the ball more than 12 times. I average 17 or 18 carries a game, which is a big transition from high school, where I carried it 30 or 40 times a game."
On the Oklahoma campus, Washington keeps pretty much to himself after classes and practice. "Maybe I get with one or two of my friends," he said. "I listen to music. I like everything except country and Western. But I haven't been to a single party this season. I think I went to one last season, two the season before, a few as a freshman. I don't see myself as much of a dancer. I'm not antisocial, but I like some quiet times. I can roam around the campus and nobody recognizes me. Or if they do, they don't say anything."
Washington is a public-relations major, a fairly good photographer, drives a Plymouth, rides a 10-speed bike, is a classy dresser and feels not the slightest ping of conscience at having left Texas to play football north of the Red River. "Naw, man, that would never enter my mind," he said. "I visited 25 schools before I came to Oklahoma. I came here because my father and Coach Mosley thought it was the best. I don't regret it."
True to his promise that he was not trying to keep the ball away from Washington, Switzer let Little Joe have it 23 times in Oklahoma's second game of the season. Washington responded by gaining 166 yards against Pittsburgh (60 more were called back because of penalties). So Washington felt wanted again, his attitude brightened and a week later he was able to shrug off his showing against Miami. Colorado was coming up, then Texas and, later, Missouri and Nebraska. Joe Washington will see his share of action. And chances are, glory.