The world of professional football is a pretty small one, and we're frequently reminded of that when tragedies from south of the border have impacts on CFL players. The latest example is the horrific shootings at Auburn University Saturday, which killed two former Tigers' players (and another man) and injured a current player (and two other men). Winnipeg Blue Bombers' rookie defensive back Demond Washington played at Auburn, and he told Paul Wiecek of The Winnipeg Free Press that he was close to the two former players killed in the shootings, offensive lineman Edward Christian and fullback Ladarious Phillips:
"I played with them and they were my friends," Washington said following practice on Monday. "It's devastating for their families and for the whole Auburn family.
"They were all like brothers to me on that team," said Washington. "My heart goes out to their families."
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for Washington is that he doesn't really have much time to grieve. He's in a tough training camp battle for a roster spot, as last year's import starters at DB (Alex Suber, Brandon Stewart, Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson) appear to have their positions locked down, and veterans Deon Beasley, Johnny Sears and Darrell Pasco are in the mix for backup jobs. The team seems likely to keep three backup import DBs at most, so there's a very real chance Washington could lose out here. It has to be brutally tough for him to try and keep his focus on the field while thinking about the friends he's lost.
Washington has an impressive resume, though, and he's gone through some tough situations before. He was part of the surprising Auburn 2010-11 national championship team that seemed to find a way to beat the odds week-to-week, particularly in their historic comeback from a 24-point deficit in the Iron Bowl against Alabama and their 22-19 triumph over Oregon in the BCS title game. He piled up the tackling stats over his two years with the Tigers, and also was successful as a kick returner. Last year, he spent part of the season with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, but was eventually cut. Making it in the CFL is never easy for a rookie, particularly one in as intense of a battle for spots as Washington is, and this tragic news about his friends certainly will make things tougher for him, but he's accomplished a lot to get here. Don't count him out just yet.