In the minutes following Friday's 41-2 win over Toledo, Justin Washington grabbed a cell phone out of his locker and punched in the area code for Cypress, Texas.

Only Washington's mother, Stacy, did not need a recap. Like millions of football fans throughout the country, she had watched the Arizona Wildcats game on ESPN.

"All my family was there, watching in the living room of my grandparents' house," he said. "My mom said she was proud of me. They were all proud of me."

And for good reason.

Washington not only played in his first-ever college game. He registered a tackle - a sack no less - on his first snap.

Washington took down quarterback Austin Dantin as the Rockets were driving into UA territory in the first quarter. The 6-yard sack made it third-and-14; following an incomplete pass, Toledo punted.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 275-pound Washington finished the game with three tackles, the most of any UA interior lineman.

It was an impressive start for a player who a year ago was disciplined by the team following a fight outside a fraternity house. Two weeks ago, Washington seemed to be an afterthought on the Wildcats defensive depth chart.

Now, he's a cog in Arizona's re-tooled defense.

"Justin's improved," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "He had one of the more productive days of our guys inside."

The Star talked to Washington, 19, about his impressive debut:

You had never played - or even dressed - in a game before. What was your first one like?

"I was kinda nervous at first, but then (the sack) just happened. After that, I was just trying to do my job for the team. I got in a zone after that. Everything went away."

What did you see on the sack?

"I cut, got up, and there was an open shot at the quarterback. I just tried to run as fast as I can."

Were you surprised you rose through the depth chart so quickly?

"I just came out to practice every day and worked hard. That's all you can do. Hard work, toughness - it's something coach Stoops instills in us. I bought into it. I took it to heart."

When did that happen?

"I wouldn't say it was a moment. It was a process of playing on the field and growing up off the field. I've picked up my academics, and done what I need to do on the field. I'm getting it done."

Was Earl Mitchell an influence? You guys played the same position last season, and he's a Texas guy, too…

"Earl was a big influence. I watched him every game to see what he did and how he did it. I put some of his moves in my game. The biggest thing, though, was that he worked hard. Play hard every down, and good things will happen."

You'll make your home debut Saturday against The Citadel. Are you excited?

"This is really my first home game. I'm excited to step on the field and to do what I can to help the team. I was on the sidelines last year, but I wasn't dressed in full pads or anything. I just had the jersey on. It's going to be a big difference because I'm actually in the mix now. I just have to do my job."

On StarNet: Read more on reporter Ryan Finley's blog at

Up next

• What: The Citadel at Arizona

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Channel 58

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)