Deommodore Lenoir was in his sophomore theology class at Los Angeles Salesian High two years ago when he was asked to step outside.
That’s when he learned a recruiter from Tennessee had become the first person to offer him a football scholarship.
“I just broke down in tears,” he said. “It was like a dream come true. I called my mom, my dad, all my family members. It was a great moment because it felt like all the hard work I put in finally paid off.”
By early summer, Lenoir’s scholarship offers had reached 36. And for good reason. He’s a 6-foot, 185-pound senior defensive back with blazing speed, strong arms and a passion to succeed.
He’s also only 16, and won’t turn 17 until October, meaning there’s lots of room for physical improvement. He has a 3.5 grade-point average and avoids drama on and off the field.
His father is a construction worker, and his mother works at home. Both have stressed education and knowing right from wrong.
“Growing up in South Los Angeles taught me a lot,” he said. “It taught me to stay focused in order to be able to go where I want to go, and that’s to the NFL. You have to stay in the classroom and do what you’re told to do.”
He has attended Catholic schools since kindergarten, when he enrolled at the Marie Regina School in Gardena.
“It taught me a lot about God,” he said.
And he learned about nuns.
“You’d speak when spoken to,” he said.
No nun ever needed to take a ruler and slap his hand to get his attention.
He has the speed to run away from any pursuer. Last season, he returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Loyola, Pasadena Muir, La Cañada St. Francis, Pasadena La Salle and Studio City Harvard-Westlake.
He’s in such good shape that taking a rest after a touchdown of 60 yards or more was out of the question. Back he’d go on the field to play defense. He is projected as a cornerback in college — he has committed to Oregon — and what a coverman he should be.
When playing man-to-man defense, Lenoir’s strength allows him to make it difficult for receivers to leave freely off the line of scrimmage. And his speed gives him quick recovery time.
“He’s a different kind of kid,” Salesian Coach Angelo Jackson said.
Lenoir enjoys one-on-one battles even though the loser can end up looking pretty bad.
“You have to have fast feet,” he said. “You have to be good with your hands and be able to move with the receiver and watch their hips. I love it. It shows me that I’m better than you. And if you say you’re better than me, you’re going to have to prove it.”
Whether he’s at receiver, running back, safety or cornerback, Lenoir will be a player to watch this fall. And his work ethic and commitment to succeed will come out loud and clear.
“When you don’t come from very much, you have to take the time out and honor what you have and do what you’re told and be hungry and humble,” he said.