Bill Walsh introduced the concept of a minority coaching internship program in 1987 when he brought a group of coaches to 49ers training camp. Eventually, this program was picked up by every team in the NFL and now, some 22 years later, the NFL has renamed it the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program.
Jason Washington was the Vikings participant in the widely-successful program this year. Washington, who is a DBs coach at Rice University in Houston, Texas, worked with Vikings DBs coach Joe Woods and Assistant DBs coach Derek Mason during his time with the Vikings.
Washington had heard of the minority internship program through a variety of people that he’s gotten to know throughout his coaching experience. Although he didn’t know where he’d end up, Washington knew he wanted to give it a try if the opportunity arose.
Vikings RBs coach Eric Bieniemy and WRs coach George Stewart looked over resumes submitted by candidates and they, in conjunction with several other members of the organization, chose Washington.
“Everything has turned out great,” Washington said on his last day with the Vikings. “Coach Bieniemy has really helped me out. Coach Mason has done a few (internships) and Joe Woods has done some as well. All of these guys that are here now have done something like this, so it has been an awesome experience.”
The Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program has given hundreds of coaches, several of them on the Vikings staff right now – a foot in the door. Three current NFL head coaches, including Super Bowl winning coach Mike Tomlin, are graduates of the program.
Bieniemy explained that the program serves 2 main purposes. One, it provides an opportunity for young coaches to network with more experienced coaches and, and two, it allows coaches to gain a detailed glimpse how an NFL coaching staff conducts its business.
“They are guys that I want to shape my coaching philosophy after,” Washington said of the Vikings staff. “They have become big models for me in how I want to shape my life. I can’t say enough about Coach Frazier. He’s an unbelievable person and it’s been great to sit back and listen to him. I reaped the benefits of what kind of person he is and his overall knowledge of the game. He’s a leader and it’s very impressive. The Vikings entire staff has been unbelievable for me. I get excited just talking about it after everything I’ve learned. Hopefully one of these days I can end up in their shoes.”
Washington said he’s absorbed football knowledge that he can take back to his team at Rice. From schemes to team management to logistics, Washington says he’s taken plenty of notes and will be eager to share with his colleagues back home.
“I spoke to our DC this morning and we were talking about red zone coverages,” Washington said. “He was asking me what we could implement into our scheme and about different techniques and drills. How do they break down games? How do they manage their meetings? How do they manage practice? I wish you could see my notepad. I have a notepad that is just full of notes. I’m going to clean that up on the way home on the plane. I’ve gotten a lot of information that I’m excited to bring back to Rice.”
Rice University is located just minutes from Reliant Stadium in Houston, which is where the Vikings and Texans will matchup for a preseason game later this month. And although he acknowledges he’ll be deep in the heart of Texas, Washington says the Vikings will have a fan in Houston.
“I’ll be wearing that purple and gold everywhere!”