Remember that laser-quick true freshman running back from Arizona State who burst onto the scene during the 2010 season? The one who scored three touchdowns in his first ever game as a Sun Devil? The one who led the team in yards per carry at 5.9 to go along with his 539 yards rushing? The one who also caught 23 passes that freshman season? What ever happened to him?
Deantre Lewis is the player who once had Sun Devil nation more excited than a night club owner when he hears Johnny Manziel will be coming to his establishment for the evening. What happened to Lewis is that he was shot in the leg near his home in southern California in Feb. of 2011. Complications from the bullet wound forced Lewis to redshirt in 2011.
It is amazing how things have changed since that bullet entered Lewis’ body. Coming out of high school, Lewis was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation’s 20th best running back. He was coached by Jacksonville Jaguars running back Toby Gerhert’s father at Norco High School in California. In one game at Norco, Lewis rushed for 336 yards and even threw a 64-yard touchdown pass. Games like these are why Lewis was good enough to turn down a scholarship offer from the Oregon Ducks in favor of Arizona State and then head coach Dennis Erickson.
When Lewis came to Tempe, he immediately battled starting running back Cameron Marshall for carries. After his three-touchdown intro to college football, Lewis and the Devils traveled to Madison, Wisc. to face the 11th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The hostile environment didn’t faze the 18-year-old Lewis as he gained 122 yards on only nine carries.
The following week, the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks came to Tempe and like the Badgers, they defeated the Sun Devils, but could not contain Lewis. Against numerous future NFL players, Lewis carried the ball only 11 times for 127 yards and a score. He proved this wasn’t beginner’s luck, as the next week Lewis carried the rock 20 times for 104 yards and a trip to the end zone against Oregon State in Corvallis. That touchdown against Oregon State on Oct. 2, 2010 was the last time Lewis would score for three years.
That was so long ago that even ESPN.com doesn’t have his rushing stats available because the website has him listed as a defensive back. To be fair, in 2012, Lewis was coming off his injury and first-year head coach Todd Graham tried using him on defense, rushing the quarterback off the edge as a linebacker. Lewis never found a home on defense and only got 11 carries that season on offense.
In 2013, Lewis moved backed to offense, but was buried on the depth chart behind touchdown machine Marion Grice and hometown hero D.J. Foster. He finally ended his three-year touchdown drought in the fourth quarter against USC last season. While being low on the running back totem pole in 2013, Lewis still rushed for 301 yards on just 58 carries. That’s over five yards a carry for all you non-math majors out there.
This upcoming season, with Grice gone to the NFL, Lewis is now again the backup, fighting with D.J. Foster (and Kyle Middlebrooks) for carries. Foster is the clear-cut favorite, but look for Lewis to have a big final season for the Sun Devils. As reported by Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller, at the team’s final summer workout, Lewis bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times. That was more than any other skill player on the team.
Lewis is way too fast, strong, resilient and talented to not have a great redshirt senior season. ESPN.com forgot about him, but hopefully the defensive coordinators of the Pac-12 didn’t. The common phrase we hear in sports is, “if you fall down, get back up again.” In the case of Deantre Lewis, we are going to see him “get shot down, and get back in the end zone again.”
Matt Heinz is a Pac-12 writer for rantsports.com. Follow him on twitter @MattHeinz_Rant.