GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took Nick Washington 33 career games to nab his first collegiate interception, and he picked a heck of a spot for it Saturday.
With Florida protecting a 13-6 lead at Vanderbilt and the Commodores trying to launch a game-tying drive as the clock ticked into the final minute, senior linebacker Jarrad Davis tracked the tight end with smothering coverage down the middle of the field and tipped an ill-fated pass into the air. Washington, a redshirt junior safety, was right there to snag the ball and effectively seal the win for the Gators.
Understandably, he has gone back and watched the highlight more than once.
“Quite a few. I watched it quite a few times,” he said with a smile Tuesday.
And how many texts and calls did he get afterward?
“Quite a few, quite a few,” he said.
#Gators S Nick Washington with the game-winning INT.
— Landon Watnick (@LandonWatnick) October 1, 2016
It was a big moment for the fourth-year player who has split time with fellow redshirt junior Marcell Harris this fall.
For the Gators, though, it was just business as usual.
Washington’s interception was Florida’s eighth of the season, which leads the SEC and ranks in a tie for eighth nationally.
Junior cornerback Jalen Tabor has a team-high 3 picks in just four games played, fellow junior corner Quincy Wilson has 2 and senior safety Marcus Maye, Harris and Washington have 1 each.
Aside from junior nickelback Duke Dawson, all of Florida’s primary defensive backs have contributed to the Gators’ turnover thievery.
“We all want the ball, but when someone else gets the ball we’re all happy for each other. It’s a real ball-hawking defense. We’re always competing,” Washington said.
He got to sign the Gators’ sideline “Get The Ball” dry-erase board after his first interception Saturday.
That’s become more routine for Florida’s star cornerback duo, meanwhile.
Tabor had his third pick of the season earlier in that game to move past Wilson for sole possession of the team lead — for the moment, at least.
“It goes back to just me working hard in the offseason, preparation really,” Tabor said after the game. “I feel like if I put myself in the right situations, I feel like I’m a good player and a better player than a lot of the guys we play against, so if I put myself in the right situations, I’ll make a lot of plays.”
Said Wilson: “We feed off each other, but it’s a friendly competition, you know what I’m saying? It ain’t nothing like, ‘I’m better than him, he’s better than me.’ But we both think we’re the best and we’re just out there trying to get as much picks as we can.”
The more impressive stat is that Wilson came into that game at Vanderbilt with those two interceptions but only one pass completed against him.
The Commodores connected on two passes across the middle to the receiver he was defending, but by any metric he is having a phenomenal season so far.
“I had two completed on me but giving up no passes for a whole season is unrealistic, but you never know what can happen,” he said.
The Gators finished with 14 interceptions all of last season to tie for 33rd nationally. This Florida team is on pace to surpass that mark, but it still has a long way to go to catch the program record of 26 interceptions in a season, set in 2008.
“We just all work our craft. We try to make each other better every day, hold each other accountable,” Washington said. “Yeah, we have mistakes here and there, but for the most part, we try to hold each other accountable and make sure we get the job done.”
They have that “DBU” moniker to uphold, after all.
“We’re always claiming that,” Wilson said. “We’re just going to let our play do the talking.”