ATHENS, Ga. --- It is a simple declarative statement that says it all for Marcus Washington.
"Rehab went good, shoulder's good, knee's good ... everything's good," said the Georgia senior linebacker from Burke County. "Now I'm just ready to get back out there and make a difference."
Washington has been itching to make a difference for the Bulldogs for so long that it's become his normal state of being. There was the knee injury late in his sophomore season the provided the first hurdle. Then came the shoulder injury just as he was making an impact as a junior starter that ended up postponing his senior season an extra year.
"Just another hurdle I've got to get over," he said.
Washington has been dealing with hurdles since he was a senior at Burke County. He became a father before he left high school and never shied away from the responsibilities that came with it. He saw going to college as an opportunity to give his family a better life.
The football could have been the easy part, if not for the injuries that keep holding him back.
"It's been rough," Washington admitted. "You come out and play a couple of games and feel good, look good, and you get injured and have to sit out the whole season. The team had some ups and downs and it's always in the back of your head thinking 'I could have made a difference if I was healthy.'"
Washington proved his potential in his first career start at Alabama in 2007. On the road against the No. 16 team in the country, Washington posted a team-high eight tackles. A week later against Ole Miss he hurt his shoulder and sat out the next week's loss at Tennessee.
Despite the shoulder still being "messed up," he came back to post five tackles and a sack against Vanderbilt and six tackles against Florida as the Bulldogs surged to a BCS bowl bid and a No. 2 season-ending ranking.
"I was going to try to finish my career playing with it messed up as well, but unfortunately it jumped back out of place and I had to have surgery," he said of the torn ligament he had repaired in May and forced him to sit out the whole 2008 season.
Washington finally got to test out his health in his first spring practice since 2006, and his three tackles in the G-Day game boosted his confidence. He's been steadily working out to be at full strength when preseason practice begins in August.
"I was a little hesitant at first wondering when I take my first real game-speed contact how's it going to react," he said of his G-Day breakthrough. "I felt pretty good after that. It held up pretty good all throughout the spring and ever since my weight's been going up and up and I've been getting stronger and stronger, At this point I feel as if it's 100 percent and I'm just waiting for Sept. 5 to get here."
Washington is currently listed as a backup linebacker, but he's moved to the top of the depth chart once before and plans to do it again.
"I feel as if I've proven myself to my coaches time and time again and once again I have to," he said. "Just like after the knee injury they weren't sure if I could play and I proved myself after that and ended up being the starter. I've been in this position before, so I've just got to go out there and play the way I know how to play."
Washington has lots of motivation. He doesn't live the typical collegiate lifestyle. Already a committed father since he was 18, he doesn't hit the town with teammates and spends time with his wife, Selecia, and two kids -- 4-year-old Marcus Jr. and 9-month-old Samira. He holds a regular part-time job doing security and custodial work at St. Mary's Hospital to help feed the family.
But the time recovering off the field allowed him to get within one housing and consumer economics class of graduating.
"I'll have a lot more time to focus on my football," he said.
If his hopes of continuing a career in football after college are to come true, Washington has one year to make it happen.
"This is my last shot," he said. "This year I have to prove not only to myself but to my coaches and to people at the next level that I can play football."
He's good and ready to make a difference.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.