NFL News of April 4, 2003

April was always important to Kelley Washington because it signaled the start of another baseball season.

But not this April. Baseball is no longer his priority. This April signals the start of his pro football career. Washington decided to skip his senior season at Tennessee to enter his name in the 2003 NFL draft.

Washington will certainly go higher in this draft than in his last one. As an 18-year-old high school senior, Washington was a 10th-round draft pick by baseball’s Florida Marlins in 1997. He figures to be a better wide receiver than he was an infielder.

Washington signed with the Marlins and spent his next four summers playing in the lower levels of the Florida farm system. But with a .213 career average, Washington needed to reassess his professional aspirations.

“I sat down before my 21st birthday and tried to picture myself where I wanted to be five years down the road,” Washington said. “I felt in baseball I’d still be in the minor leagues—almost in the majors, maybe in Triple-A.

“But I felt if I went back to college and spent a good year or two in football, I could be in the NFL and support my family. It became a no-brainer to go back to college.”

…At 24 years of age, Washington decided to forego his remaining eligibility to turn pro. He projects as a late first-round draft pick.

“I felt mentally and physically I was ready,” said the 6-4, 223-pound Washington. “I’m as big, as fast (4.43-second 40-yard dash) and as strong as most NFL guys.”

And more mature. That’s what four summers of riding buses in minors will do for you.

— Rick Gosselin, The Dallas Morning News “Baseball prospect Washington will go deep another”

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