West Feliciana's Adla Washington (14) runs the ball before the stop against Plaquemine, Friday, November 4, 2022 at Plaquemine High School in Plaquemine, LA.

After wearing No. 14 last season, his first year at West Feliciana High, senior wide receiver Adla "AD" Washington will wear No. 1 this year for the Saints.

There is significance in wearing the prominent jersey wore by former West Feliciana star Roderick Mullen, who played in the NFL and won a Super Bowl.

Some might question the honor going to a "newcomer." It is only of only two numbers retired by the Saints. But his teammates get it.

From a hardscrabble upbringing in south Baton Rouge to a chance at redemption as a high school graduate, Washington has faced hardships that could have gotten the best of him. Through hard work and determination, he has overcome a rough beginning that included homelessness, and is drawing interest from in-state colleges as West Feliciana prepares for the 2023 season.

“I want to talk about who (Washington) is as a teammate,” first-year West Feliciana coach Devin Ducote said. “He does every job that’s asked of him, and he competes every single day. Everybody admires him because of the way he carries himself on a daily basis. He’s a great football player, but he’s a great teammate first.”

Washington began playing football at age 9. As he grew older, he found himself being pulled in different directions by his life at home and his love for football. Before beginning his high school career at Liberty Magnet, there were times when Washington was alone and living on the streets.

“As a child, I was by myself and homeless,” Washington said. “I was still playing football, but I was out there on the streets. I wasn’t assigned to any house.

"I was out on the streets trying to do anything, to find anything to get through life. I don’t want to put the blame on anybody for that, but it's what I’ve been through.”

The constant for Washington has always been football. He had chances to play other sports, but football was the one that stayed close to his heart. As his skills improved, his family life did, as well. A convergence of factors gave Washington a chance to transfer to West Feliciana as a junior last season.

Even though Washington battled injuries, he was a factor as the Saints posted a 12-1 record. He cites West Feliciana’s 43-22 win at Plaquemine in Week 10, a battle of unbeatens that decided the District 6-4A championship, as his favorite moment.

The Saints then advanced to the semifinals of the Division II nonselect playoffs.

“Last year was crazy in a good way,” Washington said. “I had never been that far in the playoffs. We came together as a team and played the West Fel way. It was a natural connection.”

West Feliciana will host Plaquemine in its regular-season finale this year, and the game is expected to again carry district title ramifications.

Even if it doesn’t, Washington will be right where he wants to be — playing football in front of a community that stands behind him.

“I’ve thought about it before,” Washington said. “Without football, I was going down a road where you have no control. People end up just going with the flow and doing bad things. Football showed me I have God-given talent. Without football, I’d be down a darker path.”