Denzel Washington’s Son John David Washington Went From the NFL to an NFL Series

Denzel Washington is a film legend. Washington’s career is studded with leading roles in blockbuster movies like Philadelphia, Remember the Titans, and Training Day. And his oldest son, John David Washington, is a chip off the old block. He got his first taste of acting at a young age, playing bit parts in a couple of his father’s films. As he got older, however, he decided to make a name for himself in a different industry. 

Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington started on a different career path

denzel washington son john david
(L-R): Actors Denzel Washington and son John David Washington attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on December 05, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Growing up in a famous parent’s shadow isn’t easy. John David Washington decided to pursue a career where he wouldn’t just be “Denzel’s son.” The younger Washington had a passion for football. After high school, he received a football scholarship and played for Morehouse College. 

Upon graduating from Morehouse, Washington joined the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent. However, he spent much of his career playing football in Europe for the Rhein Fire. Washinton then finished his football career with the Sacramento Mountain Lions, a professional team that was part of the United Football League. 

According to Nicki Swift, a serious injury ended the running back’s football career in 2012. After Washington’s surgery, he moved back with his parents. He struggled with the loss of independence that he had tried so hard to cement, and he felt like he was in his father’s shadow.

He brought his pro football experience to the small screen

During this tough time, a simple phone call brought a little hope into John David Washington’s life. In an interview with GQ, the actor recalled the moment when he turned his life around and decided to give something new a try.

A family friend spoke to an HBO casting director about a new show they were working on. The casting director was interested in talking to Washington about auditioning for a role. Washington wasn’t sure about the part but tried out anyway. His mother rehearsed with him, and he went through 10 auditions before snagging the role. 

Ballers premiered on HBO in 2015, with Washington starring alongside the legendary Dwayne Johnson. Washington played Ricky Jerret, an egotistical but charming NFL wide receiver. Washington earned praise for his performance, successfully portraying Jerret’s ego and temper while also coming across as likable and sympathetic. The series ran for five seasons.

John David Washington is following in his father’s footsteps

While he took some time to find his way back to acting, it’s clear John David Washington discovered his calling. Insider recently compared the two Washingtons, calling attention to the fact that John David has just as much acting talent as his father. His performance in Ballers paved the way for bigger projects. Film icon Spike Lee sought out Washington to lead the cast in his 2018 blockbuster, BlacKkKlansman. The award-winning film skyrocketed Washington to the fame he initially tried to avoid. 

He continued to stun audiences with his next big-screen appearance in the 2020 sci-fi smash, Tenet. John David Washington followed up the big-budget flick with the romantic drama Malcolm & Marie. In 2022, he stars in Amsterdam, David O. Russell’s latest offering, alongside an all-star cast.

RELATED: ‘Tenet’ Star John David Washington Reveals His Famous Dad Is His Favorite Actor