CHAPEL HILL – Damien Washington’s best haul came in the end-zone, but it didn’t count for a touchdown. It counted for something much more, actually.
The North Carolina senior wide receiver had two catches for 22 yards in UNC’s 59-21 win over Miami. But after the game is when Washington secured the catch of a lifetime. Once the Tar Heels sang the school song in front of the student section, like they do after every home game, the entire team made its way towards the tunnel.
Instead of heading up the tunnel and into the locker room, they all stopped. That’s when Washington, a native of Kannapolis, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Chemaria Beatty. In front of both of their families, the UNC football team and the students in the Tar Pit. Beatty said yes.
Washington was going to do it on the field either way, but it was coach Larry Fedora who gave him the idea to do it at the end of the game on Senior Night.
“The fact that it was in front of all my teammates, in front of the whole student section, made it that much better,” Washington said.
Washington told a few guys what he had planned and then it “spread throughout the team.”
The entire team, still high off the record-setting win, led Washington to Beatty once she made her way to the back of the endzone.
The tricky part was getting Beatty down to the field without being suspicious. Academic counselor Kathy Zambrana played a huge role in making sure Beatty, along with her and Washington’s families were in place. Lucky for all parties involved, fans were going to be allowed on the field at Kenan anyway, since it was the final home game.
The ring was secured by freshman Juval Mollette, who is redshirting the year. He watched the game from inside the football complex, then made his way to Washington as soon as the game ended.
“I knew he was going to deliver.”
As the game clocked ticked down, the nerves kicked in.
“If you have to go from 1-10, I was up there in the 10-11 range,” Washington said. “I kept watching the time (count) down. Then it was 30 seconds left and I said, ‘it’s time.’”
The score was out of reach, but Washington, a second-string wideout, was still on the field – “I was trying to score, really, to top off the senior night” – so he was half locked into the game, half thinking about the biggest moment of his life.
“The game was most important at the time,” he said. “Soon as the clock hit zero, that’s what my mind switched to.”