James McArthur Washington (born January 10, 1965) is a former American football safety in the National Football League (NFL) for the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. With the Cowboys, he won back-to-back titles in Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII, both against the Buffalo Bills. He played college football for the UCLA Bruins.
Washington attended Jordan High School, before accepting a scholarship from UCLA. In 1984, he was named the starter at free safety and registered a school record for a freshman 119 tackles. He was a standout defensive back, finishing as a four-year starter with 339 tackles and 15 interceptions.[1 He was the co-most valuable player of the game in the 1985 Fiesta Bowl. Washington has a BA degree in history from UCLA.
Los Angeles Rams
In 1990, he was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, where he became one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the league, earning the nickname “Drive-by”. Even though he started only 10 games at strong safety, he tied for the team lead in interceptions (3).
In 1991, he became the regular starter at strong safety. The next year, he began the season as the starter until the Cowboys acquired Thomas Everett. Although he was relegated briefly to the bench, a knee injury to Ray Horton allowed him to take over the role of free safety(9 starts) and finish tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions. In Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills, he made an interception in the first quarter, which resulted in the first Cowboys touchdown and began a turnover fest a Super Bowl record nine.
In 1993 Washington was a reserve and a nickel defensive back. In Super Bowl XXVIII the Buffalo Bills ran a three-receiver single back formation and the Cowboys base defense most of the day would be in nickel (5 defensive backs), so Washington started the game at free safety. He made the best of this starting opportunity by recording a fumble return for a touchdown, causing a fumble that was recovered by Leon Lett and an interception.
In 1994, the departure of Thomas Everett opened the door for Washington to start 16 games at his natural position free safety, tie for the team lead with 5 interceptions and register 101 tackles (fifth on the team). He was the defensive signal-caller for the Cowboys when the team was the top-ranked defense in the league (1992 and 1994).
Super Bowl XXVIII
One of his most notable performances was in Super Bowl XXVIII when Thurman Thomas, after being tackled by Leon Lett, fumbled the ball, Washington returned it for a 46-yard touchdown to tie the game (13-13).
He also made a team-high 11 tackles, had an interception that eventually became an Emmit Smith touchdown, forced a fumble to set up a field goal and knocked wide receiver Andre Reed to the sidelines for a brief recovery time (sending a message to the Bills receivers). His performance was so dominating, that he received strong MVP consideration.