BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For decades Otis Washington was a Louisiana football powerhouse.
“The true gift of Coach Wash was to bring out the best in everybody. He saw things in you that you might not have seen yourself,” said Congressman Cedric Richmond.
Washington’s notable career, including stints at St. Augustine, LSU, and as the head coach at Southern University made him a household name. Kids, now men, say they knew him long before he became their coach.
Coach Washington passed away May 24 at the age of 80. Southern University System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton was among many others who released statements not long after his passing.
“He made his mark not only on the gridiron with our Jaguars but throughout the community,” Belton said.
“You knew you were going to be a better football player because he had proved it at St. Augustine. They just beat up on people,” said Greg LaFleur, a former LSU football player. “It was not a matter of whether they were going to win...it’s what the scores are going to be at the end of the game.”
“I was recruited by him and I tell you what, that was one of the best moves in my career,” says Michael Adams, a former Southern University football player.
Adams, along with dozens of former football players from Southern University, St. Augustine, and LSU packed Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baton Rouge to help honor Washington’s life. The seats were filled with friends and players turned family.
Washington’s players, and even those that watched from the sidelines, say say used the football field to teach young men about life.
“He was such a motivator and everyone he coached with was like his son,” LaFleur said.
Dexter Henderson, another former Southern University player, says Coach Washington taught every person on the field to be a leader. “His perception was everyone was a captain.”
From students who went on to careers in sports, to those who chose to perform in other arenas, every word spoken honored the coach for creating a legacy of kindness and brotherhood among everyone he encountered.
“When you need it, he’d give you a kick in the butt. When you needed it, he’d give you a hug and support. I think that’s what made him truly special,” Congressman Richmond said.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the St. Augustine High School’s Otis J. Washington Jr. Scholarship Fund, Xavier University of Louisiana Athletic Fund, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church Baton Rouge’s LA Building Fund.