Leon Washington having a Pro Bowl blast – both of them

Posted Jan 27, 2013

Leon Washington has been getting upstaged this week while preparing for Sunday’s Pro Bowl game. But it’s more than OK, because the one stealing the spotlight is Leon Jr., his 7-year-old son.

HONOLULULeon Washington is having a great Pro Bowl week.

And so is his dad. That would be the Leon Washington who plays for the Seahawks and will be the NFC kick returner, among other things, in Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium.

But it’s the enjoyment that 7-year-old Leon Jr. has been getting from hanging with his Pro Bowl pop that is making Washington’s second Pro Bowl a memorable experience for father and son.

“He doesn’t remember the first one,” Washington said, placing his hand on his oldest son’s helmeted head.

That was in 2008, when Washington was the AFC Pro Bowl returner while playing for the New York Jets.

“We talked about it the other day,” Washington said. “He couldn’t swim the last time he was here, but now he’s swimming.”

And basking, as well.

“Today, he signed his first autograph on something, and I signed underneath it,” Washington said. “So one day …”

Washington paused briefly to let his mind race almost as fast as he can run before adding, “He’s practicing.”

Then there’s the fact that Washington is even here. After severely breaking his right leg midway through the 2009 season while playing with the Jets, Washington was told by more people than he cares to remember that his career was over. It was the following offseason that the Jets traded Washington to the Seahawks in a draft-day deal.

And look who’s getting the last smirk on that one.

Washington returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in his first season in Seattle, when he also averaged 25.6 yards returning kickoffs and 11.3 yards returning punts. This season, Washington returned his eighth kickoff for a score, tying the NFL career record. He also averaged a career-best 29.0 yards returning kickoffs, which ranked second in the league, and 8.7 yards on punt returns.

“No doubt about it,” Washington said when asked if being voted to the Pro Bowl this time means more. “Dealing with the adversity, coming back from a broken leg, just to be out here I have so many things to feel fortunate for.

“I’ve been so, so fortunate. It’s just another chapter in my book that my kids can read about – the story that daddy came back from injury and bounced back to the Pro Bowl. So it’s a sweet feeling.”

In an odd double twist, six of Washington’s eight kickoff returns for touchdowns have come in two seasons – 2007 and 2010 – but he wasn’t voted to the Pro Bowl either time.

“That’s just how it goes sometimes,” he said with a shrug.
This season, Washington is one of six Seahawks who will play in Sunday’s game – along with left tackle Russell Okung, center Max Unger and free safety Earl Thomas, who will start for the NFC; running back Marshawn Lynch, the backup to the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson; and quarterback Russell Wilson, who’ll be third in a rotation that will start with the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and then move to the New York Giants’ Eli Manning.

But Washington might be the busiest of the bunch. In addition to returning kickoffs and punts, he’s also playing on kickoff coverage and has been used as a third-down back in practice this week.

“I’m doing everything,” he said. “So I plan on playing. I plan on coming out here and having fun.”

And he will, of course, have his own rooting section. In addition to his wife and sons, Washington’s parents also made the trip to see their son continue his remarkable return.

“They’re here enjoying it because they support me all through the year, so it’s kind of like their little reward for support for the year,” he said.

And from the smile on little Leon’s face, it appears no one is having a better time than him.

“He’s enjoying it,” his father said. “He’ll never forget this.”