LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- When Devante Downs (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace) watched running back Reggie Bush on TV for the first time, something clicked.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound running back/linebacker was in fourth grade -- he was taken with touchdowns.
“That’s what started to make me want to play football, offense,” Downs said.
The more he watched, the more he enjoyed the “roar of the crowd after a touchdown and when you lay someone out.”
Now a junior, Downs is one of the top 2014 prospects in Washington, drawing interest from programs like Arizona State, Michigan and Oregon, among others.
“My aspirations are to go D-I, go further in football,” said Downs, who is interested in his hometown Huskies.
But while he has received interest, he has yet to land any offers.
“It frustrates me but, at the end of the day, I’ve got to work on myself and what I can do to get better,” he said.
After starting at running back as a freshman and playing on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, Downs worked with a personal trainer throughout the offseason, preparing for a breakout junior campaign.
He said he gained 20 pounds of muscle while improving his explosiveness.
“He’s a big kid, great vision, moves very well for his size, very smart,” said Downs’ father, John. “He’s an A student. I think he can play offense or defense. I think he would excel at both. He’s a force to deal with. I go to those elite camps and he looks darn good against kids older than him.”
Downs rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the first game of the season last week, a 19-8 loss to Stanwood (Wash.).
“We’re still putting a couple things together offensively, but on defense we’re pretty good right now,” Downs said.
When he is on offense, he wants to show a combination of speed and power that resembles former Washington running back Chris Polk. That aggressive style carries over on defense.
“On defense I can be more of an individual star, not relying so much on a line or blocking,” he said. “I can do more to expose my talents, but on offense, I feel like I’m a little bit better, because I’m a playmaker when I have the ball."
From the first time Downs stepped on a football field, John said he showed natural talent.
“He kind of had a knack for it,” John said. “One of his first games, he took a little swing pass and almost took it to the house. That was like his first game playing.”
Now, as he works to secure a Division I scholarship, Downs still has a knack for making plays. While he prefers running back, college coaches have told him he projects to a college linebacker, so he has his focus fixed on defense.
“I’m trying to get my name out there a little bit more,” Downs said.
When he’s not scoring touchdowns or bringing down ball carries, he works on his shoe collection, piling up about 20 pairs of shoes he has never worn.
“They’re kind of expensive, so I don’t want to ruin them,” he said.
While Downs doesn’t know where he will end up in the future, he is working to earn a Division I opportunity.
“I’m very proud of him,” John said. “I don’t want my kid to hurry up and grow up, but I’m anxious to see where it takes him. Everything he gets interested in, he excels at.”
Years later, Downs remains taken with touchdowns.