This Peoria High running back loves yard work — on a tractor and on a football field
PEORIA — Malachi Washington did on the football field exactly what he does off of it.
"Mow right through everything," said Brian Schraeder, owner of a Peoria yard service that employs Washington off the field. "He's amazing."
Washington certainly helped Peoria High cut Normal Community down to size Friday with a 64-30 victory in a Big 12 game at Peoria Stadium.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back carried 43 times, and piled up 252 yards and four rushing touchdowns. He has 911 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season.
High school football Week 4:Scores around the Peoria area
He spent last season as a short-yardage and two-point specialist behind Eddie Clark. This is his senior year, and his only shot to emerge from a long line of Lions running backs.
"A lot of legends have run the ball, held this job," Washington said. "Eddie Clark, Geno Hess, guys like that. I want to be one. I looked up to those guys over the years. I talk to them, I work out with them and I listen to them."
Pushups and yard work
Schraeder was looking for a high school kid he could add to his lawn service crew two years ago.
Peoria High School athletic director Brien Dunphy had just the guy.
"I sent him Malachi Washington," Dunphy said. "He was the perfect kid for the job. I knew Malachi would be impressive and could be counted on. He wanted to work."
Schraeder had not had much success with high school kids in his lawncare business.
"High school kids didn't like the heat, didn't want to sweat and really didn't want to work," he said. "But I thought I'd give Malachi a shot. Well, he was immediately impressive."
Schraeder taught the then-high school sophomore how to handle professional yard equipment. A tutorial on weed-whacking turned into a master class by the second day.
"He was imploring me to teach him faster," Schraeder said. "He is a kid who you show him how to do it once, it's learned. He's the first and only high school kid I've ever allowed to operate our big zero-turn tractor."
Schraeder watched carefully as Washington operated that tractor, then saw him suddenly stop, hop off, and …
"Pushups," Schraeder said. "The kid started doing pushups. Twenty, 30 of them. He does it in the client's yard before we start, and after we finish."
Said Washington, now in his third year working with Schraeder: "Pushups all day, it helps me train for football. Mr. Dunphy hooked me up with Mr. Schraeder, and I feel blessed to have that work opportunity and both those guys in my life."
They work all day, life lessons included. Washington talks non-stop about his NFL dream.
"I tell him to never, ever give up on that, or anything you want to do," Schraeder said. "And he won't. If there's anyone I could leave my business to someday, trust that it would be taken to a higher level, it's him."
Schraeder wrote a letter to Peoria High School thanking it for sending Washington to him. "He is awesome, outstanding, energetic and very professional," he wrote. "He ... takes work to the next level and always goes the extra mile for me, my company and other workers."
Washington didn't need to go a mile Friday at Peoria Stadium. His 43 carries and 252 yards were more than enough. Although he forgot to do his pushups when it was done.
A man on a mission
Washington runs angry.
"People said I was too slow," Washington said. "Said I couldn't put up big numbers or run too long. I run with hate, run to get that all out and beat adversity."
'She's 1-for-1 on tackles:'Kicker's rare hit, Pekin's elite offense ignite large crowd
He beat down Normal Community on Friday with touchdown runs of 14 and 5 to build a 22-10 lead with 7:37 left in the first half. When the Lions took him out for a series to rest, he paced the sideline behind his teammates, like a bull looking for something red to charge at.
When he went back in, he delivered a 6-yard TD run in the third quarter for a 40-17 lead, then a 9-yard TD run in the fourth quarter for 56-30.
"He's a hard-working kid," Peoria High coach Tim Thornton said. "I'm pretty sure that when we came back from the road game last week (at Cahokia), he got off the bus and went right to the weight room."
Peoria High quarterback Tino Gist was 14-of-25 for 249 yards and four TDs. Ricky Hearn had five catches for 166 yards and a TD.
When it was done, Peoria High School, No. 6 in the AP poll, had 638 total yards and a 4-0 record while Normal Community — which beat the Lions last season — dropped to 1-3 (1-2).
What we learned:4 takeaways from Week 4 high school football around Peoria
A hug from mom
Washington went to his family afterward. His mom, Shaonda, his sister, Naomi, his brothers Norrun and Deztin and his father, Norrun are a strength behind him.
He hugged his mom, and they stopped for a picture while he begged them not to make him the last player to get on the bus.
"My family is really important for me," Washington said, grinning. "It's everything. I look up there in the grandstand for them all the time, they are there and I get strength from them."
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.