Lewiston tight end/defensive end Deon Hunt plays important roles of both sides of the ball for the Blue Devils. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Deon Hunt stands out when the Lewiston football team is on the field.

To the opposition, it’s because of his sheer size — 6-foot-1 and a solid 217 pounds — and obvious-right-away talent.

Lewiston tight end/defensive end Deon Hunt plays important roles of both sides of the ball for the Blue Devils. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

To his own team, it’s because of his presence. The junior end isn’t flashy, but he’s confident and always hustling.

“I’ve always been one of the bigger kids,” Hunt said. “That’s why this year I took — because I know that I’m not the biggest now, so it’s like this year I put a lot of work into our strength and conditioning to actually get bigger.”

First-year coach Darren Hartley wishes the Blue Devils had more players like Hunt.

“Could I have 10 of him?” Hartley said. “If we had 10 of him our record would be completely opposite of what it is right now. Because that would be the truth. Not only physically, but emotionally.”

The Blue Devils are 1-4 through their first five games, with a matchup against perennial contender Bonny Eagle on Friday. It’s hard to fault Hunt for any of Lewiston’s issues in Hartley’s first year.

“His work ethic, his commitment, his character, he doesn’t come out of the game, played with a pretty serious injury Friday night,” Hartley said. “Essentially I had to ask the official to take him out of the game because he wouldn’t really acknowledge us on the bench.”

Hunt was hobbled and in street clothes during Lewiston’s practice Tuesday, but he felt confident that he would be able to play against Bonny Eagle.

He said he likes playing football. It’s the reason he never gives up in a game, or, apparently, never wants to come out of the game.

The Blue Devils have needed him in the game as much as possible. On offense, he is a tight end who can catch tough passes a well as make key blocks in the run game. On defense, he is an outside linebacker who can play out in space or drop down in against the run.

Hartley called him a “once-in-a-decade type of player.”

“Defensively, I mean, we just try to put him by scout to where we think the ball’s going to be,” Hartley said. “Averages about eight tackles a game, two or three quarterback pressures.

“I mean, he’s everything you could ask from a football player, but he’s just everything we could ever ask for. I couldn’t ask anymore, except for this offseason I’d like to see him come back 16, 18 pounds heavier and really blow it up as a senior.”

Hunt said he likes the defensive side of the ball better, and “getting into the backfield and making tackles and plays.

“But I also like tight end, too,” he adds, “because I know that I also help in sealing the end and doing what I have to do.”

Hartley said he wants the Blue Devils to be effective running the ball, and running to Hunt’s side has been where they’ve gone more often than not. Hunt said the runners like to run his way because of his ability to make seal blocks.

And when his number does get called to catch a pass, he’s confident doing that. too.

“I get thrown the ball a lot when we’re in close (to the end zone) situations just because I’ll go up and get it,” said Hunt, who never takes a ball thrown his way for granted, always coming back for it and high-pointing it.

Yet Hartley said they try not to get Hunt the ball, trying to hide their not-so-secret weapon.

“Every time we go to him he seems like he’s available. But yet we’re trying like hell not to do it too much because I think people are going to jump it, they’re going to over and under,” Hartley said.

Hunt said he doesn’t know if other teams think of him as a key player, but conceded that he “might be.”

He knows, however, that his team thinks of him as a leader. He said he always felt like one, but this year it was made certain when he was named a team captain. He was a little surprised to be named a captain because he’s only a junior.

“It felt good because it shows that people, they have trust in me,” Hunt said. “And my coaches also said that they voted me in.”

“To be very candid,” Hartley said, “we really lack some leadership, and we got a bunch of guys that need leadership. We’re trying to do it from the coaching perspective, but a guy like Deon, who is still a junior, has really started to take a hold of the role.

“And we communicate about it. It’s a learning process for him. But we’re very proud of his performance in that role, above and beyond his athletic prowess. His leadership has been commendable, to say the least. I’m concerned about putting pressure on him, but he’s just a fantastic leader. You know, the lead by example, he’s not very verbal. He’s just a tremendously strong person to the core. He’s very mature.

“I don’t know what else to say. We’re just very proud of him. And we ask a lot of him, and he’s answered the bell every time.”

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