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Rarest Draft Quirk Sets Rudolph and Washington Up for Fairytale Ending

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“(I’ll miss Mason) being my friend,” said James Washington in November 2017 after Oklahoma State’s final regular season game against Kansas and his last in Boone Pickens Stadium. “It’s not going to be the same. We’ll go to the next level.

“It’s not like we’ll see each other every day.”

Fake news! Not sure if you guys heard this, but Mason Rudolph and James Washington were both drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week in the 2018 NFL Draft, and now they will see each other every day (or most of them anyway). I have been thinking about how incredible this is since it happened and about how it’s almost impossible to properly contextualize how unique this situation is.

Two players, arguably (ok very arguably) the best ever at their respective positions in a (currently) top 20 college organization going to the same team — an historically great one at that! — in the first three rounds of the draft. That cannot have happened before, right?

Well … right, at least recenly. A QB-WR combo from the same school being drafted by the same NFL team has only happened one other time in the last 30 years of the NFL, according to Stats Inc. Amazingly, the Steelers were involved. Even more amazingly, a school from Oklahoma was also involved.

And so now, according to Stats Inc., James Washington and Mason Rudolph are the best and most productive QB-WR duo drafted from the same school to the same team in the last 30 years. And it’s really not even that close. I’ve seen other outlets say that there have actually been eight, but I presume all of those were before the last 30 years. Either way, it’s incredibly rare.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ All of a sudden I see all these pictures of Big Ben and AB and swipe it right, and it’s me and Mason,” said Washington of going to the same team as No. 2. “It’s crazy to believe because it never really happens. For me and him to already have that chemistry and to bring it here to Pittsburgh. Whatever we do we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.”

Now there exists a scenario in which Rudolph and Washington could feasibly spend their mid-20s and 30s on the same team, doing the same thing they’ve been doing since they were baby-faced 18-year-old freshmen trying to slay a top 10 team on the road in the rain.

They might not of course. The NFL is a lot colder than Stillwater, USA. Rudolph might be cut in a few years. Washington might get traded. One may play while the other doesn’t. Maybe neither play. Who knows.

But the table is set for a 3-star WR from Nowhere, Texas and a spurned-in-his-own-state QB from South Carolina to take the reins of one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. The fact that that scenario even exists is amazing. The fact that two guys who have been the face(s) of a 30-win program over the last three years have a real opportunity to be the faces of a pro team is mind-blowing.

Only four QBs have ever been drafted from Oklahoma State. Only nine wide receivers have ever been drafted. Twice — Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant in 2010 and Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon in 2012 — have OSU QBs and WRs gone in the same year. Both of those pairs were split up, though. Dez to Dallas and Zac to New England. Weeden to Cleveland and Blackmon to Jacksonville.

OU’s Jones and Brown, the only other pair this happened to, connected for nearly 75 passes and nearly 900 yards to go along with five touchdowns in college. Those numbers are all 0 in the NFL. Rudolph and Washingon quadrupled (or more) most of that collegiate production, and now one completed pass at the next level will make them the most accomplished duo that went from the same college team to the same NFL team in the last three decades.

One pass. A 20-yard in, a 10-yard out or one of their trademark wink-and-go bombs through the heart of a helpless secondary. You could argue that the most improbable part of this fairytale — ending up at the same school in the same year and going to the same pro team after astonishing collegiate production — is over. Now we’re one QB injury away from Rudolph probably getting an opportunity to find his other half in Cincinnati and San Francisco instead of in Manhattan and Morgantown.

You know they’ve thought about it. You know everyone has. Think about that quote I opened with. We thought we saw the last of No. 2 and No. 28 about five different times. So did they! Their Bedlam strike. A Kansas punctuation mark. The Virginia Tech dagger. Even their Pro Day in Stillwater had an air of finality to it.

Little did we know that all of that might have been a prelude for what’s to come. All of that might have been inferior to what’s next. That sounds crazy, sure, but so does a farmer’s kid from Stamford and a true freshman starter from Rock Hill now holding every relevant record in school history. Fast forward five months from that quote I opened with, and we get the inverse of it.

“It’s special … it’ll be an unbelievable connection to keep building upon,” said Rudolph after the draft. “I know we got a lot of reps in the tank, but we can always get better and that’s what we plan on doing. I can’t wait to get to work with one of my best friends and ex-teammates (and current teammates).

“It should be fun.”

 

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