Lewis realizes opportunity that lies ahead

Balancing humility and confidence is often hard to accomplish, yet so far Deantre Lewis seems to be tackling that task quite successfully. The freshman to-be was one of the best running backs in the state of California last season. Nonetheless, as he sets to embark on his Sun Devil career joining a position group short on experience he's still mindful of the challenges he will face.

Deantre Lewis was a three-year varsity star for Norco High School, one of Southern California's elite football programs. As a junior, the 5-10 195 Lewis ran for 1,836 yards and 21 touchdowns. Ironically enough, Arizona State lagged some of its Pac-10 foes in extending a scholarship offer for the talented running back.

"Right after my junior year Arizona State started recruited me pretty hard," Lewis recalled. "Oregon and Oregon State offered me before Arizona State did. I don't know if I was surprised that they (ASU) didn't recruit me earlier than that and really I took it as a blessing that I got offered.

"I always liked ASU and it's a team that I followed for a while. So, I was very happy that they offered me."

Lewis was recruited by then Sun Devil safeties coach Matt Lubick who naturally created a good rapport early on. The running back was also able to gain knowledge on the Sun Devils from former teammate and current ASU center Garth Gerhart. Additionally, Lewis' head coach was no other than Garth's father, Todd Gerhart.

"Knowing Garth helped a lot with my decision," Lewis confessed. "I was able to learn how the people were at ASU and what it was like going to school there. When I visited them I found out for myself how nice the people were. I loved how Coach (Bryce) Erickson and the rest of the coaches treated me there.

"I always felt at home when I visited there."

Aside from Gerhart, Lewis will also join former teammates offensive linemen Kyle Johnson and Adam Tello, and once he arrives in Tempe he will do so with fellow first-year player and Norco player linebacker Carl Bradford.

Lewis committed to ASU in May and with all the accolades and recruiting attention he was already receiving, some wondered why he seemingly rushed into a pledge without taking even one official visit.

"I always liked ASU and my heart told me to choose then," Lewis explained, "and looking back I'm glad I made that choice when I did. I saw a young team that has the potential to go all the way. I see this team working hard. It already has one the best defenses in the Pac-10 and the offense just needs to pick it up so they can go all the way."

Lewis commented that although he did heavily favor the Sun Devils early in the recruiting process, making the decision to commit to them was no easy task.

"My brother is a big Oregon fan," Lewis said. "He was trying to make me commit to Oregon. But I wanted my family to come and see me play whenever they wanted to, so picking ASU was the right choice."

Late in the recruiting process Oregon and UCLA, were trying in earnest to have Lewis back out of his commitment, especially in light of ASU's offensive struggles last season.

"Oregon wanted me to come in for an official visit but they said I had to de-commit first," Lewis recalled. "UCLA wanted me also to come on a visit, but even though they were closer to home I never considered them. Growing up I was always a USC and ASU fan, so going to UCLA never entered my mind.

"When I saw the offense not playing well, I never had second thoughts about my commitment. I knew that when I got up there it was going to be hard work anyway so I could play. When you have a bad season all you can do is work harder the next year so you can improve. But their record never bothered me. I just had my mind set on Arizona State so what their record really didn't bother me."

Even after his commitment to the maroon and gold, Lewis elevated his play even more proving week after a week that he would be the crown jewel of ASU's 2010 class. In 2009 he collected 2,383 yards (10.1 yards per carry) and 31 touchdowns. He surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark in four games and his season low in a game was 98 yards. He posted three or more rushing touchdowns a game seven times.

His efforts that year earned him a four-star ranking by Scout.com, who also listed him as the No. 22 running back prospect in the nation.

"I was kind of surprised," Lewis acknowledged regarding his 2009 performance. "We had a lot of new offensive linemen and nobody knew how they would do. I just came into season, did what I usually do and this is what happened."

Lewis totaled 4,669 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns during his three-year varsity career. Back in his sophomore year the running back knew he had big shoes to fill on his Norco team. Lewis was following in the footsteps of Toby Gerhart, the former Stanford standout who was also the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up.

"I felt pressured because I didn't want to disappoint anybody," Lewis stated. "He was a great running back and I didn't want to mess that up for my team after he left."

Naturally he never came even close to disrupting the continuity of a great Norco rushing attack. Lewis, who was clocked running a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, established himself as the proverbial home-run hitter on the gridiron. However, the Sun Devil newcomer certainly doesn't see himself as a player without flaws.

"I'm trying to work on my inside running and staying low," Lewis noted. "I find myself standing straight up by the time I get to the secondary. I want to work on my lower body muscle too. My whole life I had the breakout speed, but even though no one has ever caught me from behind, just thinking about all those players chasing me makes me run even faster."

Lewis is scheduled to arrive with the majority of the 2010 class the first week of July, so he can enroll in second session summer school and join his new teammates in the squad's off-season strength and conditioning program.

"I'm been lifting on my own in the off-season," Lewis noted. "I've also been going to this facility that helps me get faster and keeping me in shape. I power clean 295, bench 355 and squat 455. I haven't been lazy in the off-season (laughs)."

There is no reason for Lewis not to salivate over his chances for playing time in 2010. ASU's most experienced running back is Cameron Marshall, a sophomore who has only 64 carries for 294 yards and two touchdowns thus far in his ASU career. In fact, Marshall is the only ASU running back on the roster to even record one carry.

"Everybody has an even chance right now," Lewis commented. "It's all about who puts in the most work and studies the game the most. Whoever who works the hardest is going to earn their playing time." With an ASU offense desperate for a turnaround, and one that seeks playmakers to reverse its fortunes, a highly acclaimed running back such as Lewis will undoubtedly be looked upon to produce early and often in his first year of playing at the collegiate level. To say that his transition period has to be accelerated and smooth in nature would be a gross understatement.

"I'm going to step in right away and help the team the best I can," Lewis said. "I know they are counting on me to help right away. The coaches expect me to just come in and be the playmaker I was in high school, scoring a lot for the offense with my speed both running and catching from the backfield.

"I never played in a spread offense, and I know that I will have to get used to taking handoffs in the shot gun position. But I'm a downhill runner and that should help me. I know I need to just catch on fast so I can make that early impact everybody is expecting me to do."

Introducing Deantre Lewis

High School/Junior College

Norco (Calif.) High School

Position

Running Back

Height

5-10

Weight

195

Date of birth

6/8/92

Birthplace

Riverside, Calif.

Nickname

"D-Money"

Favorite TV show

"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"

Favorite movie

"Obsessed"

Favorite singer/band

"Don't have a favorite. R&B and Rap is what I listen to."

Favorite food

"Chinese"

Favorite drink

"Fruit Punch Gatorade"

Favorite athlete

"Reggie Bush"

Favorite pro team

"New Orleans Saints"

Person you most admire

"The offensive coordinator at Norco Coach Alan Kruger. When I came to Norco I never knew about working hard to get something and he sat down with me and told me what to do to be a better player. I didn't do much as a sophomore but after that year I worked hard and had a very good junior year. Nothing comes easy in life and he showed me what you can get out of hard work."

First football memory

"I scored my first ever touchdown when I was seven playing Pop Warner. It was on a reverse. All I remember is getting the ball and just out running everybody, and after I scored I think I ran to the wrong sidelines."

One thing most people don't know about me

"I'm a very humble person."

Why did you choose ASU?

"The passion that the coaches have for the game. That makes me want to work hard in the off-season."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Playing in the NFL. If that doesn't work out I'd like to start my own business."


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