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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Northridge's Chris Washington, left, is thriving as a senior on both sides of the football - something foes are feeling and college coaches are noticing.

Chris Washington's off-field persona couldn't be more different from his demeanor when he plays safety and receiver for the Northridge Knights.

When Washington is with his friends, in class or at football practice, he plays a class-clown type of role. He keeps things loose with wisecracks, and talks of his affinity for the ladies, and even more so, discusses the love they have for him.

"He's a goofball," said Northridge defensive back Dakota Combe. "He always has something to say. When we need to laugh, Chris is always there to give us a good laugh. He's a crazy kid."

But Washington is a different kind of crazy when he's on the football field, and especially when he plays defense. When a receiver makes a catch in his coverage area, you can usually anticipate him laying a punishing hit on someone. No one expects it more than Washington.

"I get happy because I know they're gunning for me and I'm gunning for them," Washington said. "I know I'm going to win that battle every time."

It took some time for Washington to develop that killer instinct. He has spent his share of time frustrating Northridge coach Erik Thompson and defensive coordinator Jason Duckworth while he's been in their program. But now that it is his senior year, he's shown some maturity, and he's taking advantage of the talent that's enabled him to receive scholarship offers from both Utah and BYU.

"He's an athlete — you can't coach that," Duckworth said. "He'll come up and hit you. That's the thing that separates him as a defensive player. Last year he probably had three or four hits where they had to stop the game and take people off (the field)."

Washington is also dishing out punishment on the offensive side of the ball this season. He didn't play much at receiver prior to this year, and mostly because he was behind some stellar, older players on the team's depth chart.

He didn't waste any time taking advantage of his playing time at receiver this season. He caught the game-winning touchdown in Northridge's 41-37 win over Jordan in its season opener. Through four games, he has recorded 27 catches for 395 yards and four touchdowns.

"He's really a nightmare matchup on offense," Thompson said. "If he could spend all of his time there, he'd be even better. He's fast, physical and has great hands. There's really nothing he can't do."

Washington is being recruited by both the Utes and Cougars as a defensive player, and he's staying in close contact with some Pac-10 schools. It wouldn't be a surprise if those programs start looking at him as an offensive player because he has the tools and size to thrive as a college receiver. He's 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and he runs a 4.55 40-yard dash.

His already impressive statistics might be better this year if he didn't spend so much time hitting people at safety.

"We have to pick his spots because he gets tired going both ways," Thompson said. "Our scheme doesn't have to get him open. We can throw a fade and it doesn't matter who's on him or what defense they're playing on him. Having him opens everything else up."

Washington said he isn't close to making a decision on where he'll play next season. Right now, he's focused on helping the Knights to a region title and a strong showing in the 5A playoffs.

And, of course, on having some fun.

"I'm just having fun because it's my senior year and I'm playing football," he said. "I'm not being pressured by all this college stuff. I'm just trying to win region and win state. That's all I'm worried about."

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