For Penn State's Washington, looks can be receiving

Apr. 14—Penn State doesn't typically get many players out of Parker Washington's old stomping grounds. Then again, there aren't many receivers quite like Washington floating around big-time college football.

The sure-handed wideout surprised Happy Valley last fall by being a newcomer who performed like a veteran. His 36 catches, 589 receiving yards and six touchdowns all ranked second on the team behind dynamic all-Big Ten standout Jahan Dotson, and his sticky hands and polished approach to route-running impressed coaches dating back to the early days of fall camp.

Before Washington ever played a college game, head coach James Franklin praised his "elite ball skills and body control."

"Usually when a guy makes a one-hand catch, everybody goes crazy, but he's done it so many times that it's almost like it's the expectation for him now to make those types of catches," Franklin said last October, before any of those catches, yards or touchdowns.

In an age when programs are scouring high schools nationwide for prototypical receivers, the Nittany Lions found what they consider a gem in the 2020 recruiting class by thinking outside the proverbial box.

See, little of what Washington accomplished last season was done by looking the part.

At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Washington's physical contemporaries are running backs. That is exactly the same listed height and weight as two of the team's most recent rushers, Miles Sanders and Caziah Holmes. The only wideouts on Penn State's spring roster that are as heavy as him are at least four inches taller.

There really isn't another receiver in the Big Ten who is comparable, in fact.

Just three other receivers in the conference who are listed at less than 6-foot-0 weigh at least 200 pounds. It's difficult enough to find a receiver listed at 5-foot-10 on any spring roster in the conference, but only one weighs 200: Minnesota senior Clay Geary, a special teams contributor who has five catches in five seasons.

Washington is 10 pounds heavier than Geary and is significantly more stout than the other two receivers, as well.

"When I have the guys over to the house, I can see why he has that body type," Penn State receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield laughed. "He might be the first wide receiver that I've seen stay in the kitchen the entire time he was at my house. So he's earned that body."

But what makes Washington different in stature also makes him different on the field.

Stubblefield recalled a catch he made against Michigan last season in Ann Arbor. On a first and 10 from their own 47, with Washington lined up in the slot to the right, quarterback Sean Clifford found the freshman on a quick post route. Wolverines safety Daxton Hill drilled him in the thighs just as he hauled in the pass at the Michigan 46, but Washington was strong enough to bounce away from the tackle, get his balance, make a move past a defender and gain 13 more yards.

Even though he was first-team all-state in high school football-mad Texas as a receiver, there were some top programs considering him more as a running back. That didn't escape Washington's notice, especially considering the amount of work he did with his high school coaches and mentor, current Washington Football Team receiver Steven Sims Jr., on the finer points of playing the position he loves most.

This spring, Washington says the chance to get a full practice session in with Clifford at Penn State is only going to help him prove why looks can be deceiving.

"It's exciting to see that we're still actually learning from each other and learning new things each and every day," Washington said. "I feel like getting this time in spring ball is really helping us. We didn't necessarily get that chemistry last year."

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