high school football:

How this under-the-radar Las Vegas recruit found a college home during the pandemic


Steve Marcus

Shadow Ridge High senior Dion Washington poses before a practice at Aviary Park in North Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Washington will sign a national letter of intent to play college football at University of Nevada, Reno on Dec. 16.

Wed, Dec 16, 2020 (2 a.m.)


Here’s a list of the Las Vegas area high school football players expected to sign a national letter of intent starting Wednesday during the early signing period, including Legacy High School wide receiver Aaron Holloway with UNLV.

Arbor View

Devin Ramirez, defensive back, Air Force

Bishop Gorman

D.J. Herman, linebacker, San Diego State

Charlotin Charles, defensive back, Fresno State

Tafoa Amataga, defensive tackle, Southern Utah

Jaden Hicks, defensive back, Washington State


Gerick Robinson, wide receiver, Colorado State


*Marcus Alexander, linebacker, Harvard

Desert Pines

Malik Brooks, defensive back, Fresno State

Michael Jackson, wide receiver, USC

Braezhon Ross, defensive tackle, Jackson State

Tiaoalii Savea, defensive end, North Texas or UNR

Darrien Stewart, defensive back, Utah

Fatafehi Vailea, defensive tackle, North Texas or UNR

Faith Lutheran

*Quenton Rice, wide receiver, BYU

Las Vegas

Junior Carmona, tight end, San Jose State


Aaron Holloway, wide receiver, UNLV

Evan Olaes, quarterback, Colorado State


Daniel Britt, quarterback, Montana

Zyrus Fiaseu, linebacker, San Diego State

Moliki Matavao, tight end, Oregon

Zephaniah Maea, linebacker, Colorado

Benjamin Roy, offensive line, UCLA

Shadow Ridge

Dion Washington, UNR

*Source: 247 Sports.

Dion Washington woke up one morning in late April with a message from UNR defensive line coach Jackie Shipp, who had stumbled across his highlight video on social media and was interested in a talk.

A few hours later, the Shadow Ridge defensive lineman had a scholarship offer. He will sign a national letter of intent today with the Wolf Pack — one of about 20 Las Vegas-area players inking with a Division I school.

“I was surprised they offered that fast,” Washington said.

Washington is one of the lucky ones, especially with the pandemic postponing the season to limit the number of chances for under-the-radar prospects such as Washington to be recruited.

There’s no current game film, stats or opportunities for a coach to watch in person.

Washington has played about a dozen varsity games. His only other scholarship offer is from Division II Southwest Minnesota State, meaning if Shipp doesn’t find the video Washington would be like the thousands of others fringe prospects nationwide without a college home.

“I feel very lucky and fortunate that he found my Twitter profile,” Washington said. “I know others didn’t get the same opportunity.”

Washington’s highlights captured his “freak athleticism,” Mustangs coach Travis Foster said. Not only do the films show him rushing the quarterback from his defensive end position, they also showed the 6-foot-3, 260-pound senior running a 11.85 second 100-meter dash in track, and excelling in wrestling. He was second at heavyweight in 2020 in the Sunset Region.

He’s also accomplished in the weight room, benching 340 pounds and squatting 470 pounds.

“They see the potential. He’s strong as all get-out,” Foster said. “Their D-line coach saw something in the video — how he runs, his form and technique, and athleticism.”

Washington comes from an athletic family. His father, also Dion Washington, was a standout in baseball at Chaparral and played in the Yankees’ minor league system. Uncle Maurice was also a minor-leaguer.

The younger Washington stopped playing baseball when he got to Shadow Ridge to focus on track in the spring sports season. It was the right move — his speed, arguably, helped land the scholarship from UNR.

Washington says he used “his strength and speed off the edge” in his pass rush.

Washington’s potential was obvious in his junior season of 2019 when he had four quarterback sacks and eight tackles for a loss. He’s likely not a player who will make an immediate impact at UNR but one they have plans to develop into a future contributor.

“Who knows? If we would have played, he might have looked like a world beater,” Foster said.

Most prep coaches throughout the valley feel they have players also worthy of signing today — just unable to be properly recruited because of the pandemic. Another signing day is in February, but with a second surge of virus cases, a proposed six-week season for early 2021 is at the risk of being shelved. The winter sports season was already sacrificed.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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