Former Alouette defensive back Mark Washington heads back to the office Monday morning as defensive backs coach with the BC Lions pleased with his first-ever job interview.
It would be a remarkable rise through the ranks if Washington is named the next head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.
Washington may not have any US college or NFL coaching experience on his coaching resume' like the other short list candidates he's up against, but after having been granted permission to speak with the Als by BC GM Wally Buono and head coach Mike Benevides, sources told CJAD Washington was "very impressive" in his pitch for the Montreal job.
"I never interviewed for my first coaching job...you could say playing for Wally all those years was my audition," Washington says from his Surrey BC home, thankfully not far from the Vancouver airport.
"Jim Popp called me around 4 in the afternoon and asked if I could be in Florida the next day so I jumped on the red-eye and got there," says Washington, whose wife Judy is a Montrealer and are proud parents of two.
The Alouettes had to be impressed with Washington's go-get-it approach. Fellow Lions assistant Jacques Chapdelaine had also been requested to Florida but declined the interview opportunity.
Some CFL minds think Washington will surely be a head coach within 3 years, but he admits he was told the Als are expecting their head coach to fill up a staff strong on offensive minds to meld with Anthony Calvillo.
"I laid out my thoughts on a staff and how I'd handle everything from discipline to gameplanning," Washington explains.
"Spending 2-1/2 hours with Jim Popp and Mr. Wetenhall it felt so good and so relaxed. Mr. Wetenhall was asking more questions than Jim," Washington says.
"I always joked with Mr. Wetenhall that we were 'rookies' together because he came to Montreal in '97 the same year I did. I remember announced crowds of 10,000 at Olympic Stadium and wondering 'what did I get myself into coming to Canada?' Now look at all the organization has accomplished over the years."
Washington readily admits Buono---the winningest coach in CFL history but never an Alouette head coach---has had a huge impact on his football philosophy.
"Every time he opened his mouth I wanted to catch those words," Washington admits.
The other huge coaching influence on Washington will not be known to you. The Pop Warner coach who convinced Mark's mother to reconsider when her 8-year old boy suffered bruised ribs during his first scrimmage ever.
"Phil Terry begged my Mom to let me play...he even bought me rib pads."
Washington crossed paths with Terry again in high school at a suburb outside of Washington, DC. All these years later, Terry has passed away but a charity golf tournament adds to the legacy of the coach who sowed the seeds of love for the game.
Terry must have done something right--Washington is still involved in pro football and another of his high school teammates Tyoka Jackson went on to a career in the NFL from 1994-2006. The field at Bishop McNamara high in Forestville, Maryland is named after Jackson.
The Als' short list of candidates also includes:
*former Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, who happens to have coached Calvillo at Utah State 20 years ago.
*Dan Hawkins, a former Boise State and Colorado US college coach who helped at 2012 Als' pre-season meetings and minicamp in North Carolina. Note that Popp a year before hiring Marc Trestman, he had the former NFL assistant who was then consulting with the New Orleans Saints to guest coach at Als camp.
*Turk Schonert, former Bengals backup QB who went to 2 Super Bowls, who had 6 stints in the NFL coaching between 1992-2008 including twice with the Buffalo Bills. Only head coaching experience was in the defunct UFL, taking over the Sacramento Mountain Lions after former Vikings head coach Dennis Green.
*Mike Miller: not much older than AC. 42-yr. old with Cardinals from 2007-12. First coaching job came under Bill Cohwer with the Steelers in '99 and after 5 years moved on to Buffalo spending 2 seasons with the Bills.