They joined the team together, young players who played together at Augsburg College. One was the fleet receiver from Chicago, the one who could beat almost any defense down the field. The other was the unblockable defensive lineman from Milwaukee, the guy who almost toyed with guards and tackles.
They were among the first Pioneers team founder Adam Gold approached to help build his new St. Paul squad back in 2002. They would be building blocks for a winner, he knew.
But little did he, or anyone else, know that Damien Rochon-Washington and Guillaume Paek would lay the foundation for a national powerhouse and a local dynasty that would be defined as one of the best semi-pro teams of the decade. Together, they lent their talents to the St. Paul Pioneers for 11 seasons, leading their teammates in words and in deeds.
Washington, over time, would transform from the deep threat to the guy who could be counted on to get the key first down… to take the best hits a defense could deliver and bounce right back up. He became a vocal force, prodding coaches and teammates to bring their best. Expecting no less from himself.
Paek, who became a teacher and a leader of young men, dominated inside early. Became an unstoppable force at linebacker for a while and transitioned to the end of the line late in his career, the man his coaches could count on to do whatever was needed to stop the other team in its tracks.
They were known, all along, as close friends and as brothers. Over time, they taught their teammates the value of friendship, the priceless nature of family. They are the last of the original Pioneers to play, they played nearly every down of every Pioneers season – the many that ended in championships and the few that did not.
Today, we honor these men, these builders, these football players and brothers, with the greatest honor we can give. We retire their numbers – 1 and 92 – never to be worn by another St. Paul Pioneer, in recognition of all they have done, the sacrifices they have made, the loyalty they have shown.
For their brotherhood.
Please join me in a round of applause for Guillaume Paek and Damien Rochon Washington…. We will always miss you on the field, but we will always hold you in our hearts for leading the way.