By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz has shown a knack for luring assistants with tenures at big-name football powerhouses to his initial Mountaineer staff. That trend continued Monday when Pat Washington, a championship-winning coach with more than three decades of collegiate experience, was named as wide receivers coach.
With the addition of Washington, Drinkwitz has finalized all 10 on-field assistant coaching positions.
Appalachian State’s coaching staff appeared to be completed when Drinkwitz announced the hire of Charlie Harbison as a defensive assistant on January 12. He was the tenth hire following the retention of Shawn Clark, D.J. Smith, Justin Watts and Greg Gasparato, as well as the hiring of new assistants Ken Dorsey, Erik Link, Ted Roof, Junior Adams and Buddy Wyatt.
But 11 days later, Adams took a job with the University of Washington as wide receivers coach. He was born and raised on the West Coast and spent parts of his career at Montana State, Eastern Washington and Boise State. Drinkwitz and Adams were both assistants at Boise State during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Adams is likely receiving a larger salary at Washington than he had at Appalachian State.
But Drinkwitz was elated to find an assistant available the caliber of Washington to replace Adams.
“Pat brings a championship pedigree to our program,” Drinkwitz said in a press release from the Appalachian State Athletics Strategic Communications Department. “He coaches with detail, technique and fundamentals. He’s an excellent mentor to young men. I’m excited to watch the growth of our pass game with Pat leading the wide receivers unit. We welcome him and his family to Boone.”
In 32 years in the coaching profession, Washington has been part of a national championship at Tennessee in 1998, as well as five conference championships, 23 bowl games, 10 bowl wins and 11 double-digit-win seasons. The former Auburn quarterback most recently coached at South Carolina (2016-18) and has tenures at Missouri (2013-15), Kentucky (2012), Southern Mississippi (2009-11), Mississippi State (2007-08), Kansas State (2006), Tennessee (1995-2005), Baylor (1994), Texas Christian (1992-93), Louisiana (1989-91) and Auburn (1987-88).
“I’m excited to be at Appalachian State, a place with so much history and tradition,” Washington said. “Coach Drinkwitz is an up-and-coming star in the profession. There are hard-working young men on this team who are used to winning, and I look forward to working with them and the staff to keep the Mountaineers’ championship tradition alive.”
Under Washington’s watch as South Carolina’s tight ends coach, Hayden Hurst went from a former walk-on to a first-team All-SEC tight end and first-round NFL Draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. Hurst ranked second on the Gamecocks squad in both receptions and receiving yards during the 2017 campaign.
Washington came to South Carolina from Missouri, where he served as the Tigers’ wide receivers coach from 2013-15. The Tigers captured the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division title and played in the league championship game in both 2013 and 2014. He helped Missouri become one of the most improved offensive attacks in the nation in his first year at the school in 2013.
Washington helped Mississippi State break a six-year postseason drought with a Liberty Bowl win in 2007. He was also part of three winning seasons as the running backs coach at Southern Miss from 2009-11, including a 12-2 Conference USA Championship season in 2011 that was capped by a victory in the Hawaii Bowl. He coached receivers and served as the passing game coordinator at Kentucky in 2012.
As the receivers coach on Coach Phillip Fulmer’s Tennessee staff from 1995-2005, Washington helped the Volunteers post a 105-31 record during his tenure that featured 10 bowl appearances — including three Citrus Bowls, two Fiesta, Peach and Cotton Bowls, and one Orange Bowl. Tennessee also reached the SEC Championship Game four times with Washington on its staff. A win in the 1998 SEC title game vaulted Tennessee to the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, where the Volunteers defeated Florida State, 23-16, to cap an undefeated season with the national championship victory.
During his tenure at Tennessee, Washington developed several standout receivers, including Peerless Price, Donte Stallworth, Joey Kent, Marcus Nash, Robert Meachem and Cedrick Wilson, among others. Nash, Stallworth and Meachem were first-round draft picks, and all six enjoyed National Football League (NFL) careers.
Washington’s coaching career began at Auburn, where he served his alma mater as a graduate assistant coach from 1987-88. The Tigers won SEC titles and played in the Sugar Bowl both years.
A Mobile, Alabama native, Washington played quarterback at Auburn from 1982-85. He was the starter in his final two seasons and guided the Tigers to a combined 17-8 record in those years and to 1984 Liberty Bowl and 1986 Cotton Bowl appearances.
Washington earned a management degree from Auburn in 1987. He and his wife, Claudette, are the parents of sons Tyson and Justin.
Coaching on the offensive side with Washington are Clark, Dorsey and Watts. The defense will be coached by coordinator Roof and assistants Gasparato, Harbison, Smith and Wyatt. Link will serve as the special teams coordinator.