Friday | October 20, 2017
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Lewis: Saint Juste rises amid Hawaii slide

When Diocemy Saint Juste ran for 250 yards and three touchdowns in one of his first starts at Santaluces High in Boynton Beach, Fla., as a junior, his coach was back-slapping effusive with praise.

“You know what? He didn’t even smile,” recalled Daryl Drinkwater, the coach. “He had that stone-face look of his.”

He “just turned around and went out on the track to run some more,” Drinkwater said. “He went back out to work on it, running in the dark by himself because he felt he could have done better.”

Thanks to that dedication, people who know him will tell you they are only mildly surprised that he is the third-leading rusher in the nation at 892 yards and fifth in yards rushing per game (148.7) entering Saturday’s game against San Jose State while writing his name deeper in the Rainbow Warriors’ record book.

Surprised that he is doing it at UH, a place more accustomed to having its quarterbacks and receivers atop NCAA stats, perhaps, but not that Saint Juste is escalating his success from a 1,006-yard junior season.

“He’s so hard on himself that he (drives) himself to be good,” Drinkwater said.

“He is one of those guys who really, really prepares and always knows what he is doing,” quarterback Dru Brown seconded.

In an up-and-down season for the ‘Bows, Saint Juste has been one of the few constants. Constantly good — and getting better — that is.

After managing 78 yards in the season opener, production Saint Juste said he found unacceptable, he has put together the best five-game run in school history, 787 yards.

In the process, he’s shot up the career rushing leader board from outside the top 10 to the likelihood of passing Michael Carter for No. 2 this week.

Saint Juste needs 45 yards against the Spartans, the nation’s third-worst rushing defense, to overtake Carter (2,528). And Gary Allen’s 36-year old school record of 3,451 yards — while ambitious — might not be out of reach by season’s end.

If Saint Juste helps lift the ‘Bows to a bowl game, he would need to average 138 yards a game over the course of the season to surpass Allen.

Along the way Saint Juste has become UH’s go-to back with 65 percent of the team’s rushing attempts and 70 percent of the yardage. He is well along a pace for the most rushing attempts in a season while averaging 24 a game.

“I’ll take as many as they give me,” Saint Juste said. “I’m willing to be the workhorse for this team, if it comes down to it.”

The funny thing is Saint Juste began his high school football career deemed to be a blocking back at one school and, then, a bit-part player at Santaluces High. “He first went out for football not really knowing that much about it,” Drinkwater said. “They had ‘D’ at fullback, just using him as a lead blocker, never even gave him a chance. They just thought he was a short kid with not many skills because he had no experience with football. He didn’t really know football because he wasn’t a football guy. He was a soccer guy.”

At Boynton he was consigned to the scout team until he got a chance to carry the ball and, then, he found himself in a lineup that included future Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville.

“He just needed an opportunity,” Drinkwater said. “He’s still really young at the game, but he works hard, really prepares and is a flat-out competitor. Lord willing he stays healthy because, now, you’re beginning to see the real ‘D’.”

 

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