A’Mauri Washington can’t help but smile and laugh when he thinks about his first workout as a member of the Chandler Wolves football team heading into his junior season last year.
Between the heat, the weight training program and field work, Washington was forced into his back in what head coach Rick Garretson described as a “cockroach position.” Washington was gassed. He said it was the first time he had ever had a workout and practice with the intensity level that high.
The over high temperatures didn’t help, either.
“I remember just laying on my back and I was like, ‘I need some water,’ this is killing me,” Washington said. “There was so much going on I didn’t think I could make it through it. But I made it through.”
Garretson and assistant coach Collin Bottrill saw potential in Washington the first day he stepped foot on Chandler’s campus. And for good reason.
Washington is a staggering 6-foot-4 defensive lineman with a long wingspan and quickness off the ball despite his 295-pound frame. But those skills didn’t show right away, it took a new level of work ethic Washington didn’t have back in Michigan, where he moved from ahead of his junior season.
“As far as his conditioning, his strength, his speed, he admits that at his old school in Detroit they didn’t work very hard on that stuff during the week,” said Bottrill, who has frequent conversations with Washington about Michigan being a native himself. “They didn’t do conditioning like we do or lift weights like we do. He had to get acclimated to that. It was really hard for him in the beginning.
“He told us that was the hardest he’s ever worked after a spring skills workout.”
Washington played at Oak Park High School in Detroit his first two years of high school. He came out to Arizona to visit his mom in February 2021, right after his sophomore year. At the time, she had recently moved to the Valley.
He initially only planned to stay for a short period of time. But he never left.
Knowing he had to make a decision as to where to attend and continue his football career, Washington chose Chandler. At the time, the Wolves were already a powerhouse nationally that was getting ready to defend its fifth straight state title. But Washington was oblivious to Chandler’s success in the past. He knew nothing about the program until he saw the state championship trophies on his first day.
“I just kinda chose Chandler by random,” Washington said. “I didn’t know anything (about the team’s success). I just walked right into it.”
Getting adjusted to the intense workouts was a struggle for Washington at first. But he never gave up.
Eventually, he started to improve. In the early stages of his Chandler career, simply finishing a practice was a daunting task. As he became accustomed to the way the program ran, the workouts and practices became easier. At the same time, he became dominant on the defensive line.
Washington helped lead Chandler back to the Open Division state championship game. He had 42 total tackles, 13 of which for a loss. He was fourth on the team with six sacks last year, often demanding double teams from opposing offensive lines due to his power off the ball.
With a breakout season came national attention from major college football programs. He already held offers from Northern Arizona and Arizona before his junior season. In late September, Wisconsin extended an offer. By mid-October, he had offers from schools from all over the country, including Florida State, Michigan and Texas A&M.
Offers from the likes of Oklahoma, LSU and Oregon followed, among several others. In July he announced LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma as his top three schools. Washington said he plans to commit on Sept. 6, a few days after the Wolves play their first game in San Diego against Cathedral Catholic.
As it stands, he still doesn’t know where he plans to commit.
“It gives me enough time to sort of narrow everything down,” Washington said. “I’m very excited.”
Washington has become a leader for the Wolves now as he enters his senior season. Instead of lying on the ground during workouts, he is leading them. He’s also become the in-house DJ for the team, choosing music in the team’s weight room.
He’s become more than just another player in the Wolves’ program. He’s become family. Garretson will often give Washington a ride home after practices. Those car rides rarely involve football talk.
“We have a really nice relationship,” Garretson said. “We hardly ever talk football. We’ll talk about things like how to have a conversation with an adult or a recruiter. Just getting to know him, his mom, his family, it’s been a really cool thing. If kids need help, my staff helps and that includes me.”
Washington has some personal goals he aims to accomplish as a senior. He wants to lead the team in sacks on the field while maintaining his 3.5 GPA off it.
He also aims to help lead Chandler to a state title. The Wolves were dethroned last year by Saguaro in his first season with the team.
Washington said enrolling at Chandler has dramatically made a positive impact on his life. The team made him feel at home. The coaching staff became father figures to him. Now, he wants to repay them by helping them win a state title.
“Chandler brought me in as a family,” Washington said. “When I first came, I didn’t know anybody and never really spoke but now when I walk around everyone is like, ‘Oh, big Mike!’
“We may not have got (a championship) last year, but I can’t go out empty handed.”
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