By Cliff Mehrtens

HUNTERSVILLE – SouthLake Christian running back Robert Washington Jr., a freshman, became the youngest player to accept an offer from an SEC college when he committed to Mississippi State Nov. 17.

Washington made his decision after visiting the Starkville, Miss. campus during the Bulldogs’ game against Arkansas, and made a verbal agreement with coach Dan Mullen.

“Robert likes Mississippi State a lot and it was a tough decision as a parent to let him commit so early,” said Robert Washington Sr., his father. “But they pretty much promised Robert a four-year deal, which means that even if he gets injured, they will honor the scholarship. It is somewhat of a safety net.”

Washington received an offer from Mississippi last summer, but it didn’t include a four-year guarantee.

Washington, 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, rushed for 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. He battled a hip injury during the first half of his freshman season, but returned with rushing games of 151, 155, 163 and 165 yards in consecutive weeks. He averaged 11.4 yards per carry during the season, and helped SouthLake Christian reach the state final.

“Mississippi State recruited Robert hard,” Washington Sr. said. “As a parent I had concerns because it’s a long time away. The coaching staff could be gone, and commit is such a strong word.”

Washington has played the past two years on the Team USA 15-Under team and was named team captain in 2011. At last summer’s developmental camp in San Antonio, Texas, he ran for more than 100 yards in several scrimmages and threw a 45-yard halfback pass for a touchdown.

Last summer, Washington was picked for the Football Tech Future Stars Game, to represent North Carolina, but he declined and instead prepared to play for Team USA and his freshman season at SouthLake Christian. He also attended several prestigious summer camps.