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Mason Rudolph and James Washington Carry a Special Bond to Pittsburgh



On April 26, Oklahoma State’s all-time leaders in both passing and catching sat 1,200 miles apart — one at his home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the other at his in Stamford, Texas — waiting for the phone call that would change their lives.

Neither heard a ring.

A day later, still at their respective homesteads and still surrounded by family and friends, both finally got those calls. Strangely, each came from the same area code.

Mason Rudolph, the sixth quarterback taken, who was projected by many to be a Thursday night story, had to wait well into Friday’s festivities before he saw his name roll across the TV screen. And once it did, he realized that he would be part of an historic reunion.

“Unbelievable, [I had] no idea,” Rudolph told about being drafted with his No. 1 target from college. “I mean what are the chances that happens?”

Not great, in fact. Only once in the last 30 years had a college QB-receiver duo been drafted by the same team and in the same year. And it just so happened to have been by the same NFL franchise and included teammates from his alma mater’s most hated rival, Oklahoma.

“It was awesome,” said Rudolph. “When my name got called, when I got the call, I didn’t really even put it together until I’m watching the NFL Network.”

Sixteen picks earlier, James Washington had gotten his own call by way of his agent. Washington told that Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t even have his cell phone number. What?!

As for Washington, he was still reeling at the experience of being selected himself when he realized what was happening.

“I was actually taking a picture with one of my cousins and everyone started yelling and I’m like ‘what is going on?’. I turn around and look at the TV and I see Mason’s face and I see ‘Steelers’ underneath,” Washington said.

“And I was like ‘wow, this is crazy.’ And all of the sudden I see all of these pictures of Big Ben and AB [Antonio Brown] and they swipe it right and it’s me and Mason. You know it’s crazy to believe because it never really happens. For me and him to already have the chemistry and just to bring it here to Pittsburgh, you know whatever we do, we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.”

Rudolph didn’t waste any time in dialing up his former (and now future) teammate.

“[I] immediately called him and we talked for awhile, and I know the Oklahoma State fans couldn’t be any more happy and excited than to see us both in the black and gold,” Rudolph said.

Being that they were the best available experts on each other, each was asked to fill the Steeler fan base in on what to expect from his counterpart.

“Small town guy, quiet, great player,” said Rudolph of Washington. “Unbelievable, best receiver in the draft. Definitely a steal that you guys got (that we got now) and I’m just glad that we can go through this next season of life together.”

“For him, he’s a passionate guy,” Washington described Rudolph. “Once he builds a bond with people, he’s ‘hey buddy, what can I do for you?’. He’s just real genuine, what you see is what you get.”

While Rudolph is likely looking at a reserve role for the foreseeable future (behind future Hall of Famer and Mason super-fan Ben Roethlisberger), Washington will likely see immediate playing time as the Steelers try to replace the production of last year’s No. 3 WR, deep threat Martavis Bryant, who was traded to Oakland for the third round pick that would become Rudolph.

That’s a mouthful, but Rudolph didn’t mince words when addressing the questions about Washington, especially his speed and “less than elite” 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine.

Rudolph laughed at the question.

“I say watch his tape,” said Rudolph. “I say there are plenty of guys that can go lace ’em up in shorts and t-shirt and run well and play well but there’s no one like James in this draft, that’s going to be durable, he’s going to be available. He’s a smart kid. He’s not going to be in trouble, ever.

“He’s going to be a student of the game and that’s just what he is. He puts his family, his faith and his football first and he’s going to be an unbelievable playmaker.”

There’s no telling how long until (or if ever) we get to see Rudolph throwing the Washington Post, Sunday Edition, but there’s no doubt that these two carry a pretty special connection with them to Pittsburgh.

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