Devante Downs might be a little less well known by fans than KeiVarae was at the same period in their high school careers, but not by college recruiters. They drool at his rare combination of size and speed. Jim's story of the first time he saw Devante and couldn't believe he was only a freshman reminds me of the the first time I saw Kasem Williams. It was in the Tacoma Dome and Jim and I were watching the Skyline players warm up. One player caught my attention immediately. I thought he was a tight end. He had great hands and good size. I looked at my program and did a double take. I remember telling Jim that it had to be an error. That kid was just too good and too big to be a mere freshman. The rest, as they say, is history. If Devonte turns out to be anything like Kasem, then he's in for a great future.
We had the pleasure of having dinner with KeiVarae Russell at the Outback in Everett last Wednesday. By we I mean KeiVarae's high school coaches John Ondriezek, Jim Campbell, Chris Carr, Tom Myrhe, and myself, his freshman coach. We were celebrating the conclusion of his freshman football season at Notre Dame, a season in which he started every game at corner back, the only true freshman in the Irish's fabled history to have started at the corner on defense. So, how did he do? Against Marquise Lee, USC's talented receiver, called by many the best receiver in the nation, KeiVarae was flagged twice on successive plays for interference. Many fans may have questioned the fact that he was placed in that situation in the first place, but I saw his actions as being incredibly intelligent. He was given the Defensive Game Ball for keeping Lee out of the end zone. Smart guy. His intelligence and his natural athleticism had him starting every game as a true freshman. Although he was an All-State running back, he made the transition to defense with comparable ease. Again...intelligence exceptional vision and athleticism...and a great work ethic. That's all it takes to win a starting spot on defense for a legendary school
Mariner has another running back who may make many in the north Puget Sound-Snohomish County area forget about KeiVarae Russell (or at least dim the memory a little). Josh Williamson is as fast as KeiVarae, but bigger. With thighs like tree trunks, he is more of a north-south runner. He can run around you, but he will also run over you. For two years now, he has been among the league rushing leaders, and this, his senior season looks like it is going to be a great one. He may also find himself on the defensive side of the ball in college.
Four years ago, I was standing on the sideline near the end zone while a big, physical Mountlake Terrace running back was shredding Mariner's defense. "Who is that kid?", I asked Glenn K. Smith, a good friend and fellow coach. He pulled a program out of his pocket, looked at it, and said in a voice filled with disbelief, "It says that kid is a freshman. His name is Devante Downs and it says here that he's only a freshman". As he said that, Downs blew into the end zone pancaking a linebacker on the way. Now, four years later, Devante Downs is a 6'1", 230 pound senior with the speed to run outside, the agility to cut against the grain, and the power to serve up pancakes that will be the flattest we have ever witnessed.