By David Krueger Herald Writer
A severe knee injury prematurely ended Mountlake Terrace running back Devante Downs’ senior season.
However, Downs took a step Thursday toward ensuring his football career is far from over.
The four-star recruit committed to play at the University of California-Berkeley, announcing his decision on Twitter.
“Just committed to play and get my education at Cal, blessed for the opportunity and can’t wait to be there,” Downs wrote.
Mountlake Terrace High School football coach Tony Umayam said Cal is a great choice for Downs, who was impressed with the school early on.
“I think it’s going to be a great fit for him,” Umayam said. “The first visit — when they came by the school and met with him — I thought it went real well. They have a new coaching staff and you could tell how personable they were and how much they really cared for their student-athletes.”
Downs, who could not be reached for comment, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a summer camp at Oregon State in June and is out for the season.
Umayam said the injury didn’t scare off too many recruiters.
“Most of the schools actually contacted him when the word got out (of the injury) and confirmed that they still wanted him and their offer was still valid,” Umayam said. “I don’t think all of the schools did. Most did.”
Among the schools that confirmed their offers were Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona and Vanderbilt, Umayam said.
In the end it was Cal that won the Downs sweepstakes. Downs visited Cal and Stanford last spring and came away impressed with the facilities in Berkeley, Umayam said.
“Devante has done a nice job keeping things real close to the vest,” Umayam said. “(Wednesday) at the school I kind of got the impression when we spoke briefly about the recruiting picture he was going to make a decision sooner rather than later. I didn’t know it would be that soon. I didn’t know it would be (Thursday).”
Downs plans to graduate early and be on Cal’s campus this spring, Umayam said.
Downs is listed as the No. 2 prospect in the state by the recruiting website rivals.com. He was being recruited as both a running back and a linebacker. Umayam said he thinks Cal coach Sonny Dykes will have Downs lining up on the offensive side of the ball.
“I believe it’s running back,” Umayam said. “That’s what (Downs) told me. I asked him the same thing and I think in the early stages of the recruitment they really liked him on both sides of the ball. We’ll see what happens when he gets on campus. You never know with somebody who’s a great football player on both sides of the ball. He’s going in with the mindset that he’ll be on the offensive side.”
Downs rushed for 1,266 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior last season.
He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January but will likely have to miss the event because of his injury. Umayam said that while Downs’ ACL tear is serious, he expects his running back to make a full recovery and continue his success at the next level.
“His sights are on getting fully recovered,” Umayam said. “It’s a pretty common injury at all different levels. It seems like, now, that athletes are just bouncing back sooner than ever. I’m sure he’ll work his butt off to bounce back as soon as possible.”