Sam Washington became the 19th head football coach in North Carolina A&T State history on January 9, 2018. Prior to being promoted to head coach, Washington served as the Aggies defensive coordinator and secondary coach for seven years. In 2015, he was promoted to associate head coach. He has established himself as one of the best defensive minds in Division I-FCS. The Aggies improvement defensively under Washington is remarkable.
Under Washington the Aggies have finished out the top-20 in total defense only once nationally, and they have never finished outside the top-30. In two of those seasons, they were second nationally in total defense. The run defense has finished outside the top-10 nationally once, and in 2013 the Aggies led the nation in run defense. A year before his arrival in 2011, A&T was ranked 89th in total defense, 114th in rushing defense and 78th in pass defense nationally. In three of Washington’s six seasons, the Aggies have finished among the top-10 teams in passing defense efficiency including No. 1 in 2012.
N.C. A&T has had the No. 1 defense in the conference twice under Washington. They have had the No. 1 run defense four times and on two occasions they have featured the No. 1 scoring defense.
In his role as the secondary coach, five different cornerbacks have earned All-MEAC success in D’Vonte Graham, Justin Ferrell, Tony McRae, Donald Mattocks and Marquis Boyan with only Boyan not earning first-team honors. Graham, McRae and Mattocks have all earned All-American honors from various organizations. Two of Washington’s corners – McRae and Ayodeji Olatoye – signed free agent contracts with NFL teams with Olatoye making the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster in 2015 and playing the Super Bowl in 2017.
Marquis Ragland earned three first-team All-MEAC selections as a defensive lineman, linebacker D’Vonte Graham was a Jerry Rice finalist for best FCS rookie in 2011 and linebacker Denzel Jones was the defensive MVP of the 2015 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
Before arriving at A&T, Washington spent four seasons as Grambling’s defensive backs coach under Broadway. Washington played a significant role in the Tigers’ dominating defense in 2007. Nationally, the Tigers ranked 12th in total defense. During the next season, Washington’s defensive backfield played a vital role in Grambling being one of the most opportunistic defenses in the country. Grambling led the nation in turnover margin and were third in scoring defense. Defensive back Desmond Lenard returned one interception for a touchdown and was ninth in the nation in interceptions per game. Three other defensive backs ranked among the Top-50 in interceptions per game that season.
Before Washington came to Grambling, he spent five years at his alma mater Mississippi Valley State. Washington served as an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator in addition to his customary role as the defensive backs coach. In his first season at MVSU, he transformed the Delta Devils defense from one of the worst defenses in the SWAC into the league’s No. 2 ranked defense.
Before returning to MVSU, Washington spent one season (2001) as A&T’s special teams coordinator under then head coach Bill Hayes. Under Washington, the Aggies had one of the best special teams seasons in school history. The Aggies led the nation in punt return yardage per game with punt returner Curtis Deloatch breaking the NCAA’s single-season record for punt return touchdowns. Punter Yonnick Matthews was second in the MEAC in punting.
Washington also spent eight seasons at N.C. Central as the school’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. Led by All-American Buddy Crutchfield, Adrian Jones and Trei Oliver in 1996, Washington put together one of the best defensive backfields in Division II as the Eagles went 8-3 with the best pass defense in the CIAA.
In 1992, he began work at Johnson C. Smith. He was named the assistant head coach. His other duties included being the defensive and special teams coordinator, the defensive backs coach and the head track and field coach.
Washington’s coaching profession also includes a stint with Bethune-Cookman (1987-92), where he helped the Wildcats take a share of the 1988 MEAC championship. In 1998, he secured an internship with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers under legendary head coach Tony Dungy. Washington is no stranger to the NFL. He spent four seasons in the NFL with stops in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. As a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington intercepted at least one pass in five consecutive games during the 1984 season.
Washington earned a B.S., degree in physical education from MVSU in 1982. He was inducted into the MVSU Hall of Fame in 2006. He and his wife Donna have one son, Jarvis.