His tank looked plenty full during his acrobatic sideline catch when he out-muscled an Atlanta corner to complete the grab.
But don’t sleep on Nate Washington. He might not be a guy who wants the limelight, but he still has plenty to offer entering his 10th NFL season.
“I don’t mind it at all,” said Washington humbly. “Those guys Kendall and Justin should be recognized for what they’re doing on the field. They’re two amazing talents and young guys who are the future. I understand that they’re going to get a lot of recognition media-wise, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. As long as I’m here to make the plays that I can make and be there to answer the door when my number is called, that’s all that matters.”
Washington continues to make those plays throughout training camp and head coach Ken Whisenhunt has taken notice. The two of them are reunited after spending the 2005 and 2006 seasons together in Pittsburgh, highlighted by the Super Bowl XL crown from 2005.
“Nate’s had a good camp. I’ve said that a couple of times,” Whisenhunt said complimenting his veteran receiver. “I was excited to be back with Nate. It’s amazing that he’s still playing at the level he is, after all these years, old man like he is. Nate’s made a number of plays during camp.
That ‘old man’ Whisenhunt joked about showed Saturday night that he can still fly, something Washington takes great pride in. Washington has recorded a catch of 70-plus yards in three of the past four seasons, and a catch of at least 40 yards in seven of the last eight.
“I’ve got to be able to still get over the top of a guy and catch deep passes,” said Washington. “It’s something I take pride in and I never want to lose my speed. It’s what I was known for coming into this league and hopefully it’s the same thing I’m known for going out.”
Washington capped off his long touchdown with his signature touchdown celebration – a lay-in flick like a basketball player finishing a breakaway.
“I kind of stole it,” Washington admitted. “It’s a mixture of what I wanted to do and LaDanian Tomlinson. He used to put his hand behind his head like the mailman and flick it with his other hand. I stole the flick from him but I just want to make the layup part myself.”
Given the new rules against dunking over the goal post, maybe players like Jimmy Graham could learn something from Washington’s modest display.
It’s not just the 39 career touchdowns and 5,649 receiving yards that make the veteran receiver an asset to the Titans organization. Washington’s value as a leader doesn’t go unrecognized either, especially among the other receivers.
“He’s a voice of the team,” said receiver Justin Hunter. “We all follow Nate. He gets us pumped and he’s a great team leader.”
Hunter said Washington has made a big impact on his progression into his second NFL season.
“Nate always gives me little tidbits of stuff I need to work on,” Hunter said. “Even off the field he’s a good friend and he’s made a big impact on me as a mentor.”
With two Super Bowl rings adorning his hand already, Washington sees the potential in this Titans team.
Much of the optimism comes from Jake Locker’s continued development in Whisenhunt’s new offense.
“It’s awesome to see Jake at the level he’s at right now, especially with his progression with the offense,” said Washington of his quarterback. “That’s the main thing for me. The health issue was never in my mind as a worry. I knew he was going to be healthy and able to give us everything he has.”
Washington is just one of many weapons for Locker in Tennessee’s arsenal, and all of them have had their moments during the exhibition season.
Locker has completed 70 percent of his passes this preseason, including two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a rating of 119.9. It might be a quiet night for the first team offense Thursday at LP Field, but it appears the Titans offense will be all systems go Week 1 in Kansas City.