As the clock ticked down on North Carolina’s win Saturday, on a scale of 1-10, Damien Washington was nervous “in the 10, 11 range,” he said.
Not because it was his last game in Kenan Stadium – it was – or because the outcome was in doubt – it wasn’t – but because injured teammate Juval Mollette had an engagement ring in his pocket and it was almost time for Washington to retrieve it.
“I kept watching the time dwindle down,” Washington said. “With 30 seconds left, I was like, it was time.”
After singing “Hark the Sound” with his teammates for the last time, Washington walked to where Chemaria Beatty, his girlfriend, stood with both of their families in the end zone. Under the goalposts, as teammates and students cheered, as fans watched on the scoreboard, he descended to one knee. Washington, a senior reserve wide receiver from Kannapolis, proposed. Beatty, a 2014 North Carolina graduate from Charlotte, accepted.
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They met a few years ago in the UNC gospel choir. Washington was a sophomore. Beatty was a senior. They were just friends for a year and a half, before Washington wore her down, won her over. They had discussed marriage, down the road, maybe this year, maybe next year.
“As time went along, I was persistent,” Washington said. “I never left her side, I guess you could say.”
Washington was planning to propose last week, but after talking with football coach Larry Fedora, decided to do it on the field after his final home game. It was a fortuitous decision: Last week, one North Carolina cheerleader proposed to another during a timeout. Washington’s moment would have seemed all the less novel.
With help from academic counselor Kathy Zambrana and administrator Corey Holliday, Washington scrambled to get enough tickets for both families and get everyone onto the field immediately after the game. If North Carolina had lost, Washington planned to do it later, on the field, but after the students and fans had left. This was how it was supposed to happen, after a 59-21 win over Miami, after winning nine straight games in one season and going 7-0 at home, both for the second time ever.
“It was awesome to have everybody there,” Washington said. “For us to win, to make history, on senior night, made it that much better.”
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock