One number changed Tyree Washington's life: 44.52.
It catapulted the Riverside, Calif. native to stardom, taking him from the track at San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) to the worldwide stage. 44.52 was the time he ran in 1997 when he broke the national record for 400 meters.
"It was the number two time in the world," Washington said. "I became this unknown to a known athlete." It was all up from there.
Washington went on to earn a bronze medal at the 1997 Outdoor World Championships and silver medals in the 200 and 400 meters at the 1998 Goodwill Games. In 2003, he was the Indoor World Champion for 400 meters, Outdoor World Champion for 400 meters, USA Indoor 400 meters champion, and World Outdoor silver medalist. Twice, Washington was the fastest man in the world.
Washington also excelled at football and in the early 2000s was signed by the San Diego Chargers and picked up by the Oakland Raiders, but injuries derailed his time in the NFL. Now, he's bringing everything he learned from traveling the world and competing as a professional athlete back to SBVC, where he is the new assistant coach for Track and Field.
Returning to SBVC "feels amazing," Washington said. "For me, Valley has always been home." To have this full circle moment and "come back and pass the baton to other student-athletes, it's part of my mission in life, and I'm excited about it." As a coach, "You wear different hats," Washington said.
Sometimes, he listens to them as if he's their father; other times, he's a therapist. "You're giving advice and leading them in the right direction and equipping them with the right tools to be successful," he said. "I'm passing on what was given to me and paying it forward."