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Joyful Eric Washington Jr. revels in journey to coaching

James Logan assistant/Elite Athlete's Journey's Eric Washington Jr. works out athletes on Nov. 24, 2020. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo
James Logan assistant/Elite Athlete's Journey's Eric Washington Jr. works out athletes on Nov. 24, 2020. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo

There’s never a time on the field or in the gym where Eric Washington Jr. isn’t cracking jokes, dancing or flashing a huge smile across his face.

Washington, currently the owner, founder and CEO of Elite Athlete’s Journey and a wideouts coach at James Logan High School, loves everything about what he does. He loves the game. He loves the training sessions. He loves the process to help student-athletes achieve their dreams. He loves instilling confidence in youngsters.

“I just love to have fun, and I have fun with my kids,” Washington said. “In my mind, I’m 20 years old. And some of that could be a downfall because I’m not always taking as serious as I could be, but I just feel like I watch the guys that walk around and want to be old. They end up looking old and losing their whole charisma and everything that they have.”

But Washington never thought about becoming a coach. 

Washington didn’t strive to be a coach when he was older. He was more of a statistical person and a football historian, always talking about football from all decades with his grandfather. He could tell you every fact about nearly every player and team.

His father told him he would be a great coach, and during his first time at Mid-American Nazarene University, an NAIA school, the results were there: Coaching was in Washington’s DNA.

“I got a chance to work with this group of kids and reportedly this was the worst group, meaning temperament,” Washington said. “The kids were really, they yelled at the other guys and they didn’t follow directions very well and weren’t coachable at all. I was able, we did a two-week camp, and you switched kids the second week, so the first week I had the “worst group” and then the next week it was another group who came in of about 300 kids. I had another bad group, and we won the championship both weeks. 

“The response I got from the parents and the feedback that way kind of took me into inquiring more about coaching.”

When Washington returned in 2005, he was working in litigation support at home. One of his friends, Eric Stewart, reached out.

Stewart, who created the East Palo Alto Greyhounds, asked Washington if he wanted to be part of it and if he wanted Washington to coach the Mighty Mights.

“And so that’s what kicked everything off, and from there I fell in love with being able to train the mind, train the young mind, and that’s what I’m intrigued by: seeing guys go from here over the course of three months to here,” Washington said. “That’s pretty much how I got started and got into it.”

Everywhere Washington has been, success has soon followed.

Washington coached for another youth organization, the Mid Peninsula Mastadons. Then he worked at Woodside High School as an offensive assistant and offensive coordinator. He later coached at the College of San Mateo, where he was once an all-state receiver, and played for the national championship while on the staff.

Menlo-Atherton became Washington’s next stop, working with a loaded receiving corps – featuring current Oregon signee and U.S. Army All-American Troy Franklin – while winning a state championship in 2018. 

“I was being courted by the then-head coach at Menlo-Atherton to come to Menlo-Atherton, and I had told him no, no, no,” Washington said. “Told him no for a bunch of years. And it just got to a point where my son was starting kindergarten in Menlo Park, and I wanted to be close just in case anything happened. And so took the job at Menlo-Atherton, then the rest is history. We won state. The head coach stepped down and then another opportunity opened up for me at James Logan.”

He took a year off and developed a close relationship with James Logan head coach Ricky Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Eddie Smith, and today, they’re working together for one of the region’s top programs.

Throughout this journey, Washington has fallen in love with working with and mentoring the youth, leading to his creation of Elite Athlete’s Journey in December of 2014.

When EAJ started, Washington was working with one client, Malik Johnson, but then it wasn’t about training with EAJ. It was more of going to the field and working with Washington.

Since then, remarkable student-athlete after remarkable student-athlete have filtered through Washington’s program. 

There’s been Joseph King, a former Woodside quarterback who is a baseball player at Cal. Daylin McLemore, the former Serra quarterback now at Arizona State. Troy Franklin, an Oregon signee and U.S. Army All-American. Jalen Moss, a current Menlo-Atherton receiver with multiple Power Five offers. Valley Christian sophomore athlete Jurrion Dickey, who is tabbed as one of the top players nationally in the 2023 class. Mekhi Blackmon, now at Colorado. Nahson Wright and Rejzohn Wright – former James Logan players now playing as defensive backs at Oregon State.

And, of course, Washington’s cousin, Davante Adams, who just became the first player in NFL history to reach 90-plus catches, 1,100-plus receiving yards and 14-plus touchdowns through his team’s first 13 games.

“It’s just seeing these guys grow and then the development of my cousin, who I mentored his whole career,” Washington said. “Him turning into a superstar in the NFL. Things have just taken off.”

Not only is Washington working on footwork, understanding leverage and receiver work with his athletes, but he’s also instilling confidence in them.

If he sees someone is nervous or scared, he asks them why. He asks them why they don’t want to do this, and he instills that belief into themselves that they can do anything they set their mind to.

“Confidence is the key to anything,” Washington said. “I feel like if you have confidence in anything you do, you’re going to be successful at it, at some form of it. You can have the biggest anxiety in the world to speak in front of people, but the only way you’re going to get good at speaking in front of people is by speaking in front of people or public speaking, so to speak. I try to emulate that.”

Players who work with Washington have seen the results from his work, and they credit a lot of their success to what Washington has done for both their on-field work and their minds.

“He’s given me a lot of confidence,” Franklin said. “He’s been my receivers coach for a long time, and whenever I was in the game I saw something, I messed up on something, he always came back to me, gave me good information on how to fix it, on how to counter things. That gave me confidence to just think for myself and just getting advice from him.”

“Just the way he prepares you,” Moss said. “He doesn’t want you to do everything. He wants it to be your own signature. He doesn’t want you to have it done this way. He just wants you to feel comfortable in what you do. That really helps because other coaches might want it perfect with how they want it, but he lets you be comfortable in how you want to do it in terms of however you want on the field.”

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