True Colors

Oct. 10, 2006

by Stephanie Montano, USC Sports Information Student Assistant

Chauncey Washington could be wearing blue and white today. He could be wearing blue and red, red and white, white and green. Name the combination, he could be wearing it.

Those color schemes, and hundreds of other combinations, represent the spectrum of jersey options Washington could have chosen from had he decided to transfer from USC for a host of reasons.

Washington has battled injuries. He has battled the fate of playing tailback at USC at the same time as two of USC's all-time greats, Reggie Bush and LenDale White. He has also battled himself, in class, where he lost two seasons to ineligibility due to academics.

But none of those reasons were enough to leave. Added together, they didn't amount to what it meant to stick it out, persevere, and take his shot in the cardinal and gold.

So today marks the fifth game in Washington's redshirt junior season. Sharing the tailback duties with freshman Emmanuel Moody, Washington has a team-high 48 carries for 211 yards (4.4 average) and two touchdowns, the first two of his career. At Washington State last week, he led USC in rushing for the first time in his career with 71 yards on 18 carries.

At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, nothing should be able to derail the powerful tailback, yet he has had more set backs than just about any Trojan athlete that comes to mind. When he, Bush and White began their careers against Auburn in 2003, it was Washington who was the first of the three freshmen running backs to see the field. But that was just about the last time he was ahead of the fabled 'Thunder and Lightning' duo.

'My style is not the same as others,' says Washington. 'I believe I have the ability to do everything because I have power and speed.'

But fans were not able to see all that he could do because he sprained his ankle against Hawaii shortly after the Auburn game and later re-injured the ankle against Washington State, forcing him to miss most of the season. Later, a stress fracture was also discovered in his ankle.

For Washington, that was only the beginning. In 2004, he redshirted while being academically ineligible and missed spring practice of that year while he nursed his ankle injury. Preparing for the 2005 season, he was sidelined while academically ineligible for the second consecutive year. Due to his ineligibility, Washington lost his football scholarship, compounding his problems.

'[Losing my scholarship] affected me mentally,' says Washington. 'So although paying my own way while I did not have a scholarship was tough financially, I figured out a way to get by on a smaller budget so I could stay at USC.'

Coming from a tight-knit family, Washington, who often left campus to help out at home, got inspiration from his father, who encouraged him to stick it out at USC.

'Sure, I could have transferred, given up, or left for the NFL, but I love being a Trojan so much,' says Washington. 'When I was being recruited during high school, I didn't visit any other school because I knew I always wanted to be a Trojan. I believe leaving would be the easy way out and a way of running away from your mistakes. Although not being able to play was a big bump to get over, I knew if I hung in there, everything would turn out ok.'

And hang in there he did. He switched his major from math to sociology. His study habits also changed.

'I didn't practice, I didn't work out,' says Washington. 'That gave me more time to spend with tutors. I was focused on my classes day in and day out because I knew I had to do it so I could play in the fall.'

After all his hard work, Washington finally was given his scholarship back and was cleared to play this season.

'When I learned that I was eligible to play this upcoming season I was crying because I was very happy,' says Washington. 'I finally saw that light at the end of the tunnel and now I'm just very focused and trying to prepare myself for the season.'

His triumphs over these obstacles are due to his perseverance but also from the support of the people around him.

'I could not have gotten through the tough times without the support of my father, family, and my high school teachers,' says Washington. '(Athletic Director) Mike Garrett was always telling me to hang in there. (Associate Athletic Director) Dr. Magdi El-Shahawy in Student Athlete-Academic Services helped me out a lot in making the right decisions school-wise.'Now that he is again playing, Trojan fans are finally enjoying what Washington had known he could do all along.

'Just watch out for the Big 2-3,' says Washington. 'I won't let the Trojan Family down.'

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