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March 30, 2012The ball is in the air at Kentucky's spring football practice. The Wildcats are practicing kickoff returns, and eleven players bolt downfield in coverage, chasing the returner.
Among the helmets and shoulder pads running down the field, there's one blue baseball cap topping off a sweat suit: it's wide receivers coach Pat Washington.
"Let's get to the ball, let's go!" Washington says.
When his receivers run between stations for drills, he runs with them. Washington, 48, has spent more than 20 years coaching. But he still tries to go through every practice with the same kind of energy he did when he started.
"You have to move around," Washington said. "You have to be involved, you have to be active, you have to communicate. That's the way I like to do it."
Energy isn't often in short supply at football practice, and it was rarely lacking among the receivers. Tee Martin, 33, coached Kentucky's wide receivers before Washington replaced him, and Martin was renowned for his 'juice' in practice.
Washington tries to bring it every day, nevermind the fact that he's 15 years older than his predecessor.
"It doesn't have anything to do with age," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "It has to do with passion. That's what we talk about with juice - juice is passion. Passion for the place you're at. That's what Pat has. That's why he coaches the way he coaches."
That's made for a smooth transition for the receivers from Martin to Washington, said senior wide receiver La'Rod King. Washington and Martin have more in common than it first appears. Like Martin, Washington was a starting quarterback in the SEC. He was a two-year starter for Auburn from 1987-88.
Washington actually recruited Martin when he was an assistant for Tennessee. Washington's time with the Vols has made things easier also. Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and Washington worked together extensively in Knoxville, so Washington already had a firm grasp of the Wildcats' system when he arrived in Lexingotn.
"He has as much juice as Coach Tee did," King said. "Both guys have the same style of coaching. One's a little more old school than the other, but it's the same stuff. You just have to trust him."
He used to be even more active. When he was hired by the Volunteers at the age of 33, he would wear cleats to practice to demonstrate routes for receivers. He pulled a hamstring doing that a couple years later and decided to cut it out, but it hasn't affected his mindset.
"He may be up in age, but he's very active," said Glenn Holt, a former UK wide receiver who's now a student assistant coach. "He's a coach that has swagger. He's a wide receivers coach. As a wide receivers coach, you have to have swagger."
Holt spends most of his time working with the receivers now, and with Washington. It's been a smooth transition from Martin to Washington - the two run many of the same drills and coach in the same style.
That of course, includes Washington's energy level.
"Every day you come out here, you have to be hyped and ready to play," Holt said. "Your players react to how you are. If you come out here down and loafing, they're going to come out loafing. If you come out excited, then you can excite them and get them ready to play."
Washington is more detail-oriented, Holt said. He does have more experience than Martin, who had never been a wide receivers coach when he was hired by UK.
Washington coached several future NFL wide receivers while at Tennessee, but he wasn't sure he would ever find himself in the SEC again. He'd spent the past three seasons in Conference USA, hoping another opportunity would present itself.
"As you get older, sometimes people are looking for a younger guy because they think he can bring something you can't bring," Washington said.
Some coaches might be able to bring it. Washington did.
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