Growing up in a rough neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jibril Washington always knew there was more for him. Washington saw poverty and shootings, violence and drugs – he felt the pain of losing family to such a confining environment.
It all became a little bit easier for Washington when he discovered a new passion: football. When he was 8 years old, his cousin introduced him to the sport.
“Every time I would go over his house, we would throw the football around – it just became this fun thing,” Washington recalls. “And from there I just fell in love with it.”
Washington joined his first team when he was 8 and played football all through high school with the exception of his senior year. Playing in college was always a dream of his, but it became harder to pursue that dream with the loss of his last year.
Washington decided to come to Penn State knowing that making the football team would be a challenge. But, it was one that he was up for. He knew that he had the heart and skill to be a Penn State football player. It took lots of time and dedication, but eventually, Washington’s dream came true.
Between freshman and junior year, Washington tried out for the football team a total of six times. Each time he got his results, Washington pushed aside anger and hopelessness and instead was driven to prove to the coaches that he had what it took.
“I knew that I had the talent,” Washington says. “I knew that I had to do this.”
Between each tryout, he trained tirelessly to improve his game. He put on weight, gained speed and an attitude that not even the strongest linebacker could take down.
It all paid off when Washington made the football team in the spring semester of his junior year. But at this point, making the team was no longer about himself. It was about being bigger than the obstacles that overcome you.
“I knew there was a reason why I had kept going in the first place. It was like, I have to do this not for myself anymore, but more so for my family back home so they could see this and be like, ‘wow, Jibril can do something like that, so there’s no reason why I can’t.’”
Washington’s journey from the slums of Pittsburgh to the bright lights of Beaver Stadium took shape on him. Playing college football began to be something that he no longer saw as necessary, rather something that was brought into his life to teach him a lesson.
After about one month on the team, Washington began to question if he was really where he belonged.
“I just didn’t really feel peace where I was,” Washington explains. “I knew there was other things that I needed to do as well.”
Ultimately, Washington wants to create a better life for those in need. Washington dreams of bringing change to communities, starting charities, speaking to those who need motivation and starting a business.
With all that said, Washington decided to quit the team.
“It all comes down to football being a platform for me,” Washington explains. He was always planning on using his position as a Penn State football player or even eventually, an NFL star, to accomplish all of his goals, but he began to understand that he didn’t need football to do all of those things, just his love of the game.
“God had told me, ‘alright, this chapter is done here. This is all you need from this.’ Football had served its purpose in my life,” Washington says.
After leaving the team, Washington began focusing more on creating a podcast, motivational speaking and starting his own sportswear line.
As of right now, his sportswear line is just a small business start-up, with a few orders in. Washington’s main focus is his podcast, which is on Google Play, Apple Podcast and YouTube.
“I was driven to make a podcast that would give athletes a voice to talk about what is important to them besides their sport,” Washington explains. “I always felt like a lot of people stereotype athletes – it made me see that maybe people are not for athletes expressing themselves about other things besides their profession.”
In addition to his podcast, Washington is a motivational speaker who shares his journey with various different groups. After graduation in June, Washington will be speaking for a Youth Group in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I want to encourage people to chase their dreams no matter what,” Washington says.
With his business start-up, podcast and motivational speaking, Washington plans on entering the professional field of broadcast journalism after graduation in the spring of 2019.
“I want to be able to make a better life for my family than what we had growing up,” Washington says. “I am hoping that my experiences will inspire people to chase after whatever they want in life.”