COLUMBIA — When Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel mentioned that L’Damian Washington added 20 pounds this offseason, there was one burning question for the redshirt freshman receiver.
Where’d you put it?
“I don’t know, but it shows on the scale,” Washington insists. “It’s somewhere in there.”
At 6 feet 4 inches and 190 pounds, Washington looks more like Paris Hilton streaking down the sidelines than a starting Big 12 Conference wide receiver.
“He’s one of those long legged guys and thin built guys,” Pinkel said. “He’s always going to look like that, a little bit like Danario (Alexander). He’s coming around. He’s a good athlete. He’s competing.”
On Monday morning’s updated depth chart, Washington had claimed the top X-receiver spot over sophomore Rolandis Woodland.
“We were thinking about L’Damian last year, but we just kind of made that decision at the end, we just thought he probably was not ready,” Pinkel said. “I think he weighs about 20 more pounds than he did last year. He looks thin now. A lot of guys call him The Pole.”
It’s a nickname that Washington can’t help but laugh at.
“When I came in I was 165 pounds and I remember guys saying ‘Oh you’ve got to put on at least 40 pounds or 50 pounds to play in the Big 12,’” Washington said. “Stick and pole and string bean always stuck with me."
What clearly doesn’t stick with him is weight. Despite the pounds he added this summer, Washington’s lanky frame still requires a fragile sticker on his helmet.
“I’ve always been skinny,” Washington said. “Going into middle school, high school guys were always like ‘You coming out for the football team?’ I still get now ‘You play basketball, right?’ A lot of people look at me and they’re like ‘No way you play football.’ It’s OK.”
After spring ball, Washington sat down with wide receivers coach Any Hill and made a goal to get up to 195 pounds so he would have a better chance of finishing the season without being too banged up.
“Eating is like a job for me,” Washington said. “I’m constantly eating. Going to meetings, I’m eating. In meetings, I’m eating. I can miss a meal and it shows. I got to constantly eat."
It’s not like Washington hates food. He’s just like that friend you’ve always been jealous of who can shovel down truckloads of food without ever putting on a pound. His favorite restaurant in Columbia? None other than the limitless Golden Corral.
“I eat so much,” Washington said. “The weight just don’t come to me. It’s cool though. I like it.”
Putting on the pounds hasn’t just made Washington more injury proof. He says it’s made him a better receiver overall.
“I’m more physical,” he said. “I’ve always been able to take hits over the middle, but as far as blocking I see it. And getting stronger in the weight room — the stats show that. I’ve gotten faster as well. It’s turning out good for me.”
For now, the additional weight has helped Washington earn a starting spot, but he’s not ready to get too comfortable there.
“It’s a stiff competition every day,” Washington said. “Who knows what tomorrow’s going to bring? We both got to come out and get better day-by-day. Me and Rolandis are good friends. We’re pushing each other, but we’re teammates still no matter what.”