Chris Washington ranks as one of the fiercest defensive players in the history of Iowa State football. The soft-spoken linebacker let his actions on the field do the talking, racking up an ISU record 457 tackles in his four-year career.
A native of Chicago, Washington was a standout basketball player at Julian High School. He decided to try football his senior season after the coaches suggested he could be an outstanding linebacker. In his only season of prep football, he earned all-metro honors and garnered interest from colleges across the country. He chose Iowa State over Minnesota and Northwestern.
Washington emerged as one of ISU’s leaders on defense in his sophomore season (1981). He played a big part in the Cyclones’ 23-12 victory over Iowa, recording 11 tackles, including eight solos and a sack. He finished the season with a whopping 168 tackles, establishing a new school record for stops in a season - a mark that still stands today. His 110 solo tackles led the Big Eight Conference.
Possessing 4.6 speed in the 40, Washington used his quickness to track down ballcarriers from all areas of the field. Washington also was trained in karate, earning a first-degree brown belt. He credited much of his success from karate, where he developed superior concentration and flexibility.
As a junior in 1982, Washington joined forces with ISU interior linemen Chris Boskey and Shamus McDonough to form one of the best defenses in the country. The Cyclones allowed just 289.7 yards per game in total defense, ranking 12th nationally. Washington again led the team in tackles, recording 147 total stops, including a league-high 98 solos, to earn second-team all-Big Eight honors.
He capped off his Cyclone career with 134 tackles as a senior (1983) to help him earn all-Big Eight honors for the second consecutive year. The team captain, who was named ISU’s outstanding defensive player in 1983, ended his stay in Ames with 457 tackles, a school record which is 59 tackles ahead of second-place Keith Schroeder on ISU’s all-time list.
In 1984, Washington was drafted in the third round of the USFL draft by the Washington Federals and in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Washington signed with the Buccaneers, immediately finding a spot at outside linebacker in his rookie season. He started seven games, tying for third on the team with 5.0 sacks. Washington started every game at linebacker the next three seasons (1985-87) for the Bucs, recording 12.5 sacks during that span. In the 1987 strike-shortened season, Washington tallied a career-high 6.5 quarterback sacks to rank second on the squad.
He was traded to San Francisco in 1989, but missed the entire season after breaking his ankle in the preseason. He finished his NFL career in 1990 with the Phoenix Cardinals.