Washington’s ‘passion project’ comes to fruition with Big Ten Network debut


EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Tuesday Oct. 27 will forever go down as a monumental day for Maya Washington, who is the daughter of former Michigan State football and Minnesota Vikings star Gene Washington.

It’s the day she learned her nine-year ‘passion project’ a.k.a her documentary “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” was going to get picked up by the Big Ten Network.

On Tuesday Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. the documentary will make its debut, after first premiering at the Detroit Free Press Freep in 2018. Ever since then it’s been a go-to for universities and scholarly communities as a catalyst for intergenerational conversations about race and sports.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of so many people in the Lansing area, throughout Michigan, throughout Minnesota, all parts of the U.S., and even some parts of the world,” said Washington. “Where people were really inspired by what we were doing in making this film.”

Washington’s inspiration for the film came in 2011 when attending former MSU All-American Bubba Smith’s funeral.

“When Bubba passed away that is when I found out that he’s the reason my Dad (Gene) got to Michigan State,” said Washington. “It was Bubba Smith who recommended my Dad for a football scholarship, and my Dad ended up getting a track scholarship, but it was the unique relationship Bubba Smith’s Dad had with Duffy Daugherty where they put in a good word for my Dad.”

It was a real eye-opening experience for Washington who felt like she needed to thank Smith, because if it wasn’t for him her Dad never would have had the opportunity to go to MSU.

“Bubba was a catalyst that really inspired me to learn more,” said Washington. “To show my appreciation to my Dad and his remaining teammates, and coaches, before it was too late. To make sure the story got out into the world because as we found out in 2020 life is precious and tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.”

The award-winning film highlights former Spartan coach Duffy Daugherty’s innovative recruitment strategy. Daugherty sought out the best black football players from the Jim Crow South to build MSU into a powerhouse program. Daugherty was one of the first college football coaches to field a racially integrated team and it paid off for the Spartans at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

“It has been a labor of love, but it has not been easy,” said Washington as she smiled. “I’m not a Spartan, but I had to tap into some ‘Spartan Will.'”

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