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Charlottesville’s Isaiah Washington (right) tries to break the tackle of James Monroe cornerback Nicholas Williams during a game at Charlottesville High School.

Some athletes talk about the importance of hard work and dedication. Isaiah Washington epitomizes those attributes.

Whether it was running over defenders on the football field or fighting for every loose ball on the basketball court, the recent Charlottesville High School graduate is self-motivated to be the best he can be in all facets of his life.

“My motivation is to become something in life,” Washington said. “I never back down from a battle. I always take it head on and do what I’ve got to do.”

He credits that blue-collar mentality to his mother, Nykeia Washington, who instilled in him the importance of hard work from a young age.

“My mother is my everything,” Washington said. “She’s always pushing me to be better than she was. She’s always telling me about her ‘back in the days’ when she would go out there and play with no fear. But the first thing you do is pray. God stays first in everything you do, so God plays a big role in this too.”

Education was paramount growing up for Washington, whose mother frequently preached the importance of school. Although it wasn’t always easy, Washington fulfilled his mother’s wishes by earning an opportunity go to college and play football at Virginia State University.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back was set to start fall camp with the Trojans’ football team next month. Those plans changed recently with the CIAA announced it would cancel sports for the fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was supposed to go on campus on Aug. 6 to start camp, but then I got a text from Coach [Reggie] Barlow for an emergency Zoom meeting,” Washington said. “Most of us already knew what was going on because we got the notification saying CIAA had moved the season to the spring.”

Washington was at home in Charlottesville when he learned about the CIAA’s decision to postpone his first season of college football.

“I was kind of upset because [Coach Barlow] said the move-in date might change and that we wouldn’t be having camp, but we would still be working out a lot,” Washington said.

During the Zoom call, Washington said players were initially upset and had numerous questions about the entire situation. He credits his coach for putting the players’ minds at ease.

“Coach’s message was for us to keep getting work in,” Washington said. “His main reminder was, ‘let’s not worry about this, we’re still having a season, so that’s good.’ Our teammates were telling us to keep our heads up because this is giving us extra time to get better.”

Washington committed to Virginia State in March, just after the COVID-19 pandemic forced Gov. Ralph Northam to shut down schools and colleges in Virginia for the remainder of the school year.

Now the pandemic is causing changes to the fall academic and sports calendar in the commonwealth. The CIAA’s decision to postpone the football season was a difficult one, but Washington plans to take advantage of the extra time to prepare for his freshman season.

“Having the season pushed back will help me get more work in on the field and off the field and get to know the school better,” Washington said. “It will also give me the time to get bigger and faster. It’s going to be boring in the fall since the season has been pushed back, but there’s a lot of positive things we can get out of this.”

The incoming college freshman has no plans to transfer and is committed to playing football at Virginia State. He’s spent the past month or so working out in Charlottesville in preparation for a college season.

“There’s always bumps in the road,” Washington said. “My motto is just to face it and do what you have to do. I committed for a reason. I’m 110 percent locked in. Now that the decision has been made, I will be focusing on my grades first, then getting better at the sport I love the most.”

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