Darin Washington always wore No. 10 growing up.
But he wears No. 5 today as an homage to a young man he idolized. A young man he wanted to be just like. A young man that won't see his little cousin play for a state championship Saturday. A young man who wore No. 10.
In many ways, No. 5 aspires to be just half the man Jovan Brooks was.
"We were real close," Washington said of his cousin. "I used to come to all his games, watch him. I kind of looked up to him, do all the things he liked to do."
Brooks—the son of Warriors coach Johnny Brooks—died in a car accident in May 2001, just days before graduating from Havre de Grace High School.
Jovan was a Warriors quarterback, just like his father. His No. 10 jersey is retired on both the football and basketball teams at Havre de Grace.
The quarterback-head coach relationship is always one of the most unique in sports. At Havre de Grace, it's a family affair. And the relationship between Washington and coach Brooks is one that extends far beyond the short time Washington has spent at Havre de Grace.
"He's been there for a long time," Washington said. "He's taught me mostly all I know."
Saturday, when Washington leads the Warriors into M&T Bank Stadium to play Dunbar for the Class 1A championship, he'll attempt to be just the fourth quarterback to win a state title at Havre de Grace.
Johnny Brooks won a state title 29 year ago this week, leading the Warriors to a win over Middletown with three touchdown passes for the school's second championship.
In his 13th year as the varsity coach at Havre de Grace High School, Brooks has reached the pinnacle of his coaching career. His Warriors—with his cousin under center—are on the verge of history.
"I think its worked in both our favors," Brooks said of the pairing. "He just lifts the whole team up. His presence out there on the field, I think the kids think we will always have an opportunity to win because he can do so much."
Washington has thrown for 2,163 yards and 25 touchdowns. He's completed 138 of 235 passes—for a 59 percent completion rate—and 12 interceptions.
He's also rushed for 297 yards and nine touchdowns on 65 carries.
"I remember when he was just Buddy Boy, running around, playing parks and rec games," Brooks said. "I used to go watch him play. I never envisioned coaching him, really. I just wanted him to be a good football player. But when the opportunity presented itself and he came here, I was just looking forward to trying to help him develop into a good high school quarterback."
And Buddy Boy—now, simply "Bud" to teammates and friends—is more than just a "good" high school quarterback.
As a dual-threat quarterback, Washington is being recruited by virtually every major program in the country.
He hit a brief hurdle last year, as he was deemed academically ineligible the day of the Warriors' season-opener. He transferred to a school in Georgia but returned to Havre de Grace this year.
Washington has turned his grades around, and the entire school is benefiting.
"I think he came back to us much more mature," Havre de Grace principal Pat Walling said. "He came back to us very responsible. We've seen his grades improve. Eligibility hasn't been an issue. He's really become a part of the school. I know a lot of that has to do with football."
Washington is just one example. Throughout Brooks' 13 years at Havre de Grace, countless students can thank the social studies teacher for keeping them focused on school and graduation.
In a sense, Brooks—the only African American male teacher at Havre de Grace—keeps a segment of the school population involved and on track.
"It's hard for me as an administrator to understand that and know that," Walling said. "I appreciate what Johnny does for the kids. He does keep kids in school. He does keep kids out of trouble. He does help facilitate that next step of post-secondary opportunities for them."
Washington has those opportunities. He's focused on reaching his potential on the football field.
Oftentimes as the Warriors defense took the field without Washington—he has played defensive back in the playoffs—he would stand alone on the sidelines. The football tucked in his right arm as if he was ready to run with it at any moment. As the defense tried to get the ball back in his hands, Washington would stand in silence, with his teammates respecting his space as if he were a superstitious pitcher in the ninth inning of pitching a perfect game.
Washington says he's simply staying focused. As quiet as he is on the field, he's a jokester off, his teammates say.
"Bud is the complete opposite of what he is on the field when he is off the field," senior fullback/linebacker Jordan Stallings said. "He's such a goofball. You wouldn't think he's the same person that's in that No. 5 on Friday night."
That combination of quiet demeanor and ability to ease friends with a joke is just one of the many quality traits that links Washington to Jovan. Brooks sees a lot of his only son in Washington.
"It's great," Brooks said. "He really reminds me of my son, somewhat. In some of the things he does, and his mannerisms and what he does on the field."
One major difference in the cousins is height. Jovan Brooks was a few inches shy of six feet, a natural athlete who took over the quarterback position out of necessity in 2000. Washington is 6-foot-2—and growing.
It's the combination of size, athleticism and the ability to throw a football 60 yards downfield that have college coaches intrigued by the Warriors quarterback.
Brooks is locked in on helping Washington—who will start for the Warriors basketball team next week when the season tips off—fulfill a goal of playing Division I football.
Letters come into the coach's office by the day for Washington—who is a top-100 recruit in his graduating class according to various scouting services. USC. Penn State. Notre Dame. Maryland.
But Brooks doesn't hesitate to remind the teenager—the ball is in your hands.
"He knows what he needs to do. I told him, 'It's all in your hands. Pretty much everything out there is for you. You just need to work and do what you need to do to get there,'" Brooks said. "He knows. If he makes it, that'll be great. If he doesn't, he knows that'll be his fault."
Washington has an entire community riding his back into M&T Bank Stadium Saturday. But there's an entire family helping him carry the load.
"It means a lot," Washington said. "Family is most important to me. I like to be around them all the time."
On the football field, he is.