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Gordon: Desert Pines duo brings tight bond to No. 1 Georgia

Updated December 29, 2022 - 8:54 am

David Hill didn’t seem to be as busy at Desert Pines High School.

Not according to Georgia tight end and Desert Pines graduate Darnell Washington, who is still becoming accustomed to seeing Hill inside Georgia’s football facility on a daily basis.

“I’m a guy, I like to sit back and observe. So when I see him (interact) with other players and people — and just like his job in general, I find it just funny because being a coach in high school, there’s not that much to do,” Washington said.

“So when I see him go into this office or this meeting, I just find it funny because I never saw him do it before.”

Washington and Hill have both transitioned from Desert Pines to the nation’s No. 1 team: Washington as a bruising third-year tight end and likely NFL first-round draft pick in April and Hill as a first-year assistant serving as a player connections coordinator and assistant running backs coach.

The two will represent their alma mater, Las Vegas and the Bulldogs on Saturday against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl, which doubles as a semifinal for the College Football Playoff.

As their careers have evolved, so too has their relationship — fortifying the brotherly bond they developed at Desert Pines.

“He’s an older brother to me because he took me to all these camps and all these visits,” Washington said. “He didn’t have to. Financially, my family, we couldn’t do it. If that didn’t happen, then I wouldn’t be here.”

‘Being a resource’

Washington is one of the top draft-eligible NFL prospects. It’s a befitting distinction for the nation’s former top tight end recruit, who caravaned across the country to tour universities with Hill while attending Desert Pines and deciding where he’d matriculate.

While aiding in Washington’s recruitment — and that of several other top local prep football prospects — Hill developed an extensive catalog of coaching contracts across Division I. Washington would choose Georgia and Hill would continue to coach at Desert Pines, maintaining relationships with Bulldogs coaches while supporting Washington from afar.

Hill loved teaching life skills and coaching at Desert Pines, where he worked for a decade and helped develop more than 40 Division-I signees. But he’d “dedicated my whole life to becoming a college coach,” even leasing his house by the month so he could move at a moment’s notice.

That moment would arise this spring when the Bulldogs offered him a position unique to their program: player connections coordinator. He said it “entails having a relationship with every player on the roster, whether it’s offense and defense,” said Hill, inherently gregarious and formerly a fullback at Arizona.

“Just being a resource for them. Getting to really know them more than on the football field.”

Developed at DP

Just like he got to know Washington.

Now 21 and a father of two, Washington is fulfilling the promise he showed with the Jaguars as one of the best blocking tight end prospects in NFL history. He’s also a dynamic receiver, catching 26 passes for 417 yards and two scores in a secondary role.

He’s captained Georgia in multiple games as well.

“He’s taken another step in his development. He’s taken another step in his social maturity and everything,” Hill said. “Me being here, being able to hold him accountable, stay on him and talk to him in a manner that I’m able to talk to him because I’ve earned the trust. … I think they’ve played a big part and played big dividends because he wants me to be happy and he wants to impress me as well, too.”

Washington won’t officially declare for the NFL draft until the season is over, but it’s clear his time in college is ending.

Hill’s, meanwhile, is just beginning. Not that he’d have it any other way.

“I was just excited for him,” Washington said. “He always talked about (coaching in college) when I was going through the process of getting recruited. His dreams are coming true as well as mine.”

Dreams developed at Desert Pines.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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