LeGarrette Blount has spent plenty of time on the phone lately — what else does he have to do? — getting advice on what his next step should be. (Not contacted so far: Tom Cable, Buddy Ryan). His most recent call was from Kermit Washington, whom you may recall was involved in a rather noteworthy punching incident of his own.
During a fight between the Lakers and the Rockets in 1977, Washington punched Houston’s Rudy Tomjanovich in the face, breaking his jaw and leaving him unconscious. It was probably the most infamous punch outside of a boxing ring until, perhaps, Blount’s blow to the noggin of Boise State’s Byron Hout on Thursday. And according to Washington, it pretty much ruined his life.
Washington was one of the first people whom Oregon coach Chip Kelly called on to counsel Blount as he looks forward after being suspended for the season. Say what you will about Kelly, but he’s really been working the phones on this kid’s behalf.
“I wish it never happened, but it did,” said Washington. “Thirty years later, I am still identified with that no matter where I go. They say, ‘Kermit, you’re the guy who hit somebody,’ and that’s life. There’s nothing you can do about it. I always wanted to be a politician, but after that being a senator or being a congressman was out of the window.”
Washington was concerned for Blount’s future, and at the request of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, spoke with Blount on the phone Sunday.
“This is what I said to him: ‘Don’t make any excuses because nobody wants to hear that,” said Washington. “You do need to be public with your regrets. Write an open letter to the University. Write a letter to the Oregonian. And just say you’re sorry. Say publicly the truth: that you embarrassed your school, your coach, and your team. People respect honestly, courage, and truthfulness.
“Even those who think the worst about you and will always think you’re a thug. They might not like you but they respect those traits. It’s very important that you write the letter in your own words. No PR people. And remember: no excuses. You are going to lose people if you say, ‘he taunted me.’ And don’t make it a black white thing [Hout is white]. Don’t even consider that route. You will go the way of Maurice Clarett: from bad to worse.”
That last sentence is rather chilling, and if Blount wasn’t listening before, he surely was then.
As we learned earlier this afternoon, a Tweet by someone with the account of EJ Prince claimed that Hout may have directed a racial slur at Blount, precipitating the punch. Whether that information came from Blount, or a teammate, or was invented out of whole cloth, is anyone’s guess.
As for Washington, it’s clear that his punch still haunts him. See this excerpt below from a documentary on Washington’s life, and how he will be forever linked with Tomjanovich.
“I remember going out the tunnel after the game, and talking to the guy who takes care of the cars. He said ‘Don’t worry Kermit, everything’s going to be OK.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t think so.’ ”