Western Illinois defensive lineman Cam Washington recently visited St. Louis to watch his favorite hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo courtesy Cam Washington)
By Barry Bottino
Western Illinois defensive lineman Cam Washington grew up without an NHL team in his home state of Virginia.
Yet that hasn’t kept the WIU graduate student from becoming a hockey fanatic, who has multiple favorite teams and sweats out plenty of Pittsburgh Penguins games via his Twitter account.
“It’s such a fun sport to watch,” he said.
Washington is also a fan of pepperoni pizza, the second-floor view from WIU’s University Union and Norse mythology. This fall, he likely will be a player that new Western head coach Myers Hendrickson relies on heavily.
Learn more about Washington in our first Moving the Chains Q&A of the 2022 season:
You tweet a lot about hockey. How did you become such a big fan?
It started when I was a little kid. My dad would talk about Jarome Iginla, who played for Calgary. As I looked into, he played for Pittsburgh at one point. When I was looking through Pittsburgh’s roster, I noticed players like Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby.
I said, ‘I want to see how these guys play.’ So, I’d just watch hockey highlights and decided these are definitely the guys I want to continue watching. From then on, I’ve loved Pittsburgh. The Penguins are one of my favorite teams.
Do you have more than one favorite hockey team?
Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs are my second-favorite hockey team. I’ve got to credit that to someone I met on Twitter. She’s a big Maple Leafs fan. I root for Toronto and Pittsburgh whenever they’re playing.
How many NHL games have you attended in person?
I haven’t been to many just because of how my schedule is. Last spring, I did go to Missouri to see the Pittsburgh Penguins play the St. Louis Blues. That was a very fun experience. Pittsburgh won in a shootout, so we got to see free hockey. It was stressful, but it was a lot of fun.
After every NHL game, the home team announces its three stars of the game. Who are your three favorite star players?
That’s tough. I’d say my No. 3 would be Niklas Kronwall from the Detroit Red Wings. He’s an absolute stud defenseman. He’s known for laying big hits and being an absolute force. As a defensive player myself, I love that kind of stuff. My second favorite would be (Pittsburgh defenseman) Kris Letang. He’s not a thumper like Kronwall, but he’s so technically sound and he knows what he’s doing when he dishes the puck. When he’s defending on fast breaks, he knows how to position himself. It’s very fun to watch to see how his hockey IQ continuously grows each year.
My favorite player is (Pittsburgh center) Sidney Crosby. The man’s electric. It’s amazing to see what he can do with the puck. Every time I see the puck on his stick, it’s like, ‘Oh boy, something crazy’s about to happen.’ You never know what he’s going to do.
If you played hockey, what position would you play?
I’d love to be a defenseman. Naturally, for me, understanding defense in different sports, it would be easy for me to grasp.
Do you skate?
No. (Laughs) I never got into that because I was so afraid of falling down and embarrassing myself in front of people.
You are originally from Virginia Beach, Va. What do you miss most about home?
It’s the beach and being able to – after a long week of school – go with a group of your friends down to the ocean and hang out during a nice summer or spring day. I like going in the water, wading out and seeing how far I can go. I like swimming around in the ocean and just being with my friends at the beach. That’s something you can’t match.
You started your career at FBS Old Dominion. What appealed to you about transferring to Western Illinois?
When (former WIU head coach Jared Elliott) first started recruiting me, he talked about the history of Western Illinois and it’s not your standard, run-of-the-mill program. It has a legacy. It has winning traditions. That’s one thing that has always stuck with me – the history and traditions. That’s what pulled me in. I want to be able to be part of winning culture. I want to win games for the university and for Macomb itself.
You walk around wearing a Western Illinois football shirt, everyone is stopping you to say hi, ask how you’re doing and how the team’s doing. It’s something special to have people in a town do that.
What are you favorite local places to eat in Macomb?
I tried Chick’s on the Square the other day for the first time. I really liked it. The second place is Gelsosomo’s Pizzeria. My parents and I went after the spring game. Coach Hendrickson recommended that we go there and try it, and we were not disappointed.
At Chick’s, I tried their ‘Lips.’ That’s a good start. I’ll explore more of the menu the more times I go there. At Gelsosomo’s, I stick to pepperoni pizza. There’s nothing that can beat a pepperoni pizza.
You come from an athletic family. What sports has everyone been involved in?
My mom, Jennifer, was a field hockey player. My dad, Todd, played football all the way from high school to the NFL. (He played eight seasons with Tampa Bay and Houston.) He’s been a big inspiration for me, along with my mom having been an athlete and having been around football. They both understand the demands of this game.
My stepdad, Jason, played a little baseball. He also understands football as well. I can talk to him about anything that goes on in my athletic career and he’s going to give me some good input.
My little sister on my dad’s side, Ava, is at the University of Pittsburgh right now playing lacrosse. My little brother on my dad’s side, Zane, is still in high school and has taken up weightlifting, and he is doing really well with that. My little brother, Dylan, on my mom’s side played football in high school. He enjoyed it, but I’m most proud of him because he decided that he wanted to go to veterinarian school. He loves working with animals. He’s at Virginia Tech right now. They moved him in last week.
My little sister, Reilan, is a jack of all trades. She plays softball and is extremely smart. She’s so smart that she makes me look bad. (Laughs) I don’t want to want to get into an argument with her because I feel she’s just going to outwit me.
After football, what’s your dream job?
My dream job is a to be a football coach, specifically a defensive line coach. From high school to now, every coach I’ve had imparted huge lessons on the game and life lessons as well.
Each coach I’ve had has changed my life in a good way. I want to be able to give back to the game and the next generation of players so I can possibly change their lives for the better.
What are your hobbies?
I like to read about Viking legends and Norse mythology. I’m a big Star Wars guy too. I’ll occasionally play PlayStation.
What’s a recent show you would recommend?
There are two shows. The first one is Vikings on Hulu. It’s a great show. The second one is the Walking Dead on AMC. I love the storytelling, the character development.
Not including Hanson Field, what’s your favorite spot on the WIU campus?
I’ll go to the second floor of the University Union, and I’ll sit on the couches there near the big windows overlooking the center of campus. Looking out, I can see all of campus and see Hanson Field. The scenery is just great.
If you’re having a bad day, which teammate can change your mood?
The one person is (junior defensive lineman) Brian Bruce. There have been a couple days where I’ve been down and the last thing I want to do is interact. Brian is a jokester. He takes football seriously, but when we’re in the locker room together or out at practice, he makes people laugh. He can always make me crack a smile when I’m having a bad day. Then I just forget why I’m having a bad day, and everything gets better.
Is there a coach on staff who could still play today?
You look at (linebackers coach Brandon Kreczmer) and he looks like he can suit up any day. There are times when he looks so buff on film.