Taylor Washington has been a steady, reliable presence for the Riverhounds this season, playing in and starting 26 of the team’s 29 games. The former MLS SuperDraft first round selection of the Philadelphia Union has logged 2235 minutes and is the team leader with 93 interceptions.
A native of Somers, NY, just outside of New York City, Washington excelled at four sports at Rye Country Day school before earning a scholarship to attend Boston University. As a freshman at BU, he scored a game-winning goal against Harvard.
Washington, then transferred to George Mason University, where he played for three seasons, earning numerous accolades and helping the Patriots win the Atlantic 10 title in 2013. After being drafted by the Union, he spent most of 2016 playing for its USL side, Bethlehem Steel FC, and making one appearance for the Union.
In his time in Pittsburgh, the 24 year-old Washington, who is a devout Catholic, has been fairly open about his faith, and was featured this August 7 Pittsburgh Catholic article.
In addition, it was announced this week that Washington has been named a recipient of the Champions Award by Provident Charter School for his work with children suffering from dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities.
Diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 19, Washington has volunteered at Provident throughout the 2016-17 school year, speaking at multiple events, as well as working with kids at an individual level.
“I have a ton of respect for the Provident Charter School,” Washington said. “Growing up as a student, who struggled in school, was made fun and wasn’t really able to read – to know there’s a school for kids just like me that struggled and have a learning disability, specifically for dyslexia, it’s just an amazing cause. To be recognized by a school that I have so much respect for is truly humbling and a big honor.
“Speaking to those kids just remind me of me. I just want to instill a belief in them that no matter what anyone says, they can do it; they can achieve whatever they want to achieve. People told me all my life that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, but it made me work harder.”
In addition to his work with Provident Charter School, Washington joined the Volunteer Hospital Program at Children’s Hospital of UPMC, where he’s been the constant, regular participant in making weekly visits, while bringing along some of his Riverhounds’ teammates, who have also regularly visited patients at Children’s Rehab Unit (CHRU), once or twice per week since March.
After Washington’s first visit, along with Trey Mitchell and Victor Souto, feedback received from patients, families and staff at the 8-bed inpatient unit established in 2015 for long-term rehabilitation patients was overwhelmingly positive.
“They were amazing,” Zoe Futato, Child Life assistant at CHRU, said. “The kids were doing things that they’ve never done before in physical therapy. They were so motivated and it was so awesome to see the guys cheering them on and talking them through everything.”
Last Wednesday, after practice, I had a chance to catch up with Washington, after the Hounds had been dealt a tough loss to Bethlehem Steel FC, and here are some excerpts from our interview session.
So, after what is it now, the grind of 28, 29 games, how do you feel as this season hits the final stretch?
“I’m feeling good. We take care of our bodies pretty well. The coaching and training staff make sure we watch what we’re eating, you know all that kind of stuff. They’re doing their part, we’re doing our part, and we’re ready for the games the rest of the way.”
How can you rebound from a tough loss like you had against your former team, Bethlehem Steel FC?
It’s unfortunate. All you can do is move forward. Can’t worry about the past. We’ll have to be more determined than in any other game we’ve played this year. We still have a chance to make the playoffs, we need some help, and have some things go our way, but if we do our part, that’s all we can ask for.
As a defensive unit, the back four has had its ups and downs this year, including eight clean sheets, but in the month of September, it’s been untimely goals and breakdowns, what can you work on to get better in these final weeks?
“Cohesiveness. When you work as a back four, it’s all about that unity that you can develop. We’ve had some good training sessions this week. Good press. Everyone’s been working defensively. From the forwards, all the way to us. What we’re looking for is high press, and go all out for 90 minutes. If we stay compact, we stay tucked in, the results will come our way.
Regardless of results, this team has shown it’s ability to battle back and be resilient, isn’t there something to be said for that?
“That resembles the City. You know, how blue collar it is here. He (head coach Dave Brandt) wants us to embody that. To work hard, no matter the score, we have the ability to win. And I think that stems from the inner belief in ourselves, in our teammates and our entire organization.
In light of the news and what’s been going on with the National Anthem, and protests, what’s the been the vibe within the locker room and among the team?
“You can’t escape it. Sure, we’ve discussed it. Everyone here has their own opinion.”
“I can’t control it. I have my own views on it. I am personally half African-American, and half white, and I have my own views on it, but I play football for a living, and I let the politicians do what they do, and let everyone else speak for themselves. I’ll always put my hand over my heart, and pray for good things to come for this great country.”
“It doesn’t really affect us. We talk about it, this and that, we saw Alejandro Villenueva come out, and we just discussed it. Some people take a stance, so people don’t.”
“Who knows, maybe on the bus ride (to New Jersey), it might come up a bit more among the guys.”