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Crenshaw's De'Anthony Thomas piles up carries, unforgettable moments

The Los Angeles Times' Glenn Davis Award winner as the top player in Southern California ends his senior year having led Crenshaw to a second City title in a row. Who loves him? 'Everybody.'

January 03, 2011|By Ben Bolch

Robert Garrett called the tailback over to the sideline before his star player's final high school play.

Throw a halfback pass, the Crenshaw High coach told De'Anthony Thomas.

Oh, and one more thing:

"Make it good," the Crenshaw coach said.

It was unforgettable, even though the ball never left Thomas' hands.

Bottled up along the right sideline at the Coliseum, his intended receiver covered, Thomas cut back and raced toward the far side of the field. He didn't stop until he reached the end zone, his 12-yard touchdown run serving as the exclamation point in the Cougars' 45-7 victory over Carson in the City Section Division I championship.

Said Thomas: "It was a great feeling when I hit the end zone."

Said Garrett: "That play will stand out forever for me."

There were plenty of memorable moments for Thomas during a senior season in which he led Crenshaw to a second consecutive City title by rushing for 1,299 yards and 18 touchdowns while also intercepting five passes as a defensive back.

Thomas averaged 11.4 yards per carry and put on a spectacular display against Carson in the title game, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown. He also intercepted two passes, running back one for a touchdown.

"He was definitely a breed apart," Harbor City Narbonne Coach Manuel Douglas said of Thomas, the Los Angeles Times' Glenn Davis Award winner as the top player in Southern California.

Thomas is the first player from the City Section to win the award since Carson quarterback John Walsh in 1990. He is also the rare megastar liked as much for his humble nature as his enormous talent.

Before the season, Garrett was asked who was close to Thomas on his team.

"Everybody," the coach said.

Who is his best friend?

"Everybody," Garrett said.

Thomas' biggest fan might be Damorrea Jefferson, a freshman wide receiver and defensive back trying to model himself after his older sibling with a different last name.

"If I keep on trying, maybe I will get that way," Jefferson said. "He's just a really good kid, and I appreciate him being my brother."

It was hard not to adore a player who sacrificed his own statistics to accelerate the development of younger teammates. There were eight games this season in which Thomas had fewer than 10 carries, and he ran the ball only once during blowout playoff victories over Narbonne and Granada Hills.

"He would want to know, 'When are we going to get the ball to somebody else?' " Garrett said.

That could change next season, when Thomas hopes to pile up carries as a USC freshman. After initially saying he wanted to play defensive back in college because it might lead to a longer NFL career, Thomas reversed course.

"I was figuring that I could be another big-time running back like Reggie Bush or Joe McKnight and try to compete for the Heisman Trophy," Thomas said.

As a freshman?

"Yes," Thomas said.

Garrett predicted great things for Thomas because of his willingness to augment his talent with hard work.

"He comes to practice every day with a hard hat on," Garrett said. "He doesn't take a play off. If you had 10 De'Anthony Thomases, you'd win every year."

One worked out just fine for Crenshaw.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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