LINCOLN – Nu-Nu Washington won’t let his son repeat his mistakes.
He’s trusting a childhood friend to make sure of it.
Texas wide receiver Marcus Washington announced Tuesday that he is transferring to Nebraska after spending three seasons in Austin. Nu-Nu said helping his son choose a new home was a “hard decision.” But the conversations he had with Kenny Wilhite, NU’s director of high school relations, made it easier.
“Wilhite was critical to the process because he understands how hard it is for a Black kid to get out of St. Louis and do something, ”Nu-Nu told The World-Herald on Tuesday. “My conversations with Ken didn’t have anything to do with football. They had everything to do with life.
“I’m not saying my son has to go to the NFL. But I am saying that he’s got to live a life better than mine. “
Nu-Nu grew up on the north side of St. Louis, one door down from Wilhite’s cousin. At first, the friends had a lot in common. Both loved football. Both played quarterback in high school. Nu-Nu played at Vashon High; Wilhite played at Oakville, about 18 miles south.
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Once they graduated, however, “we were opposites,” Nu-Nu said. While Wilhite left home to play cornerback at Nebraska and in the Canadian Football League, Nu-Nu stayed home and “messed my life up.”
“Running in the streets, dealing drugs and all that other stuff,” he said. “I did a lot of stuff. I wish I never did.”
When Marcus was born, Nu-Nu promised himself Marcus’ life would be different. He introduced Marcus to football and told him: “You can use this to get out of the neighborhood.”
Marcus considered himself a basketball player until the summer of his junior year. That’s when the football scholarship offers rolled in. Nebraska was among the first, but 33 more followed. He eventually chose the Longhorns and caught 25 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns in 31 games (eight starts).
Washington wants a fresh start in Lincoln, though. Nu-Nu declined to comment about his son’s tenure at Texas, but he believes Marcus can help put the Huskers “over the hump.” Nu-Nu trusts Wilhite. He’s impressed by the resources Nebraska invests into helping student-athletes after they graduate. And he’s excited that Marcus will be playing closer to home.
Marcus ‘grandmother, Ruby Wesley, hasn’t attended one of Marcus’ games since high school.
“She doesn’t like to travel on the plane,” Nu-Nu said. “She’s an old-school lady. So with him coming closer to home, his grandparents will get to see him his senior year. It’ll be a good time. “
The family hopes the good times don’t stop in Lincoln. Marcus wants to play pro ball. Nu-Nu considers himself Marcus’ harshest critic – “He ain’t no (Terrell Owens) or Randy Moss, I’ll tell you that,” Nu-Nu said – but he likes offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense. He says Marcus has “a little chemistry” with NU quarterback Casey Thompson from their time together at Texas, “and the passing game is all about chemistry,” Nu-Nu said.
But the play calls and friendship won’t matter if Marcus doesn’t grind. Even when Marcus was younger, when he was clearly better than his peers, Nu-Nu never fed the hype. Instead, he reminded his son: “You’ve got to work.”
He uses himself as an example of what can happen if you don’t. Nu-Nu regained control of his life. He owns a small painting business in St. Louis. Louis.
But he works 12-hour days. His son deserves better. Marcus deserves to follow his NFL dreams.
What will it take to achieve them?
“Work his ass off and pray,” Nu-Nu said. “Give it his best shot, because once it’s over, it’s over. You can’t go back. There is no do-overs. ”