Jerome Dews is not your friend, at least, not if you’re wearing anything other than a Potomac High School jersey and you’re standing on the same football field he is. There are Largo and Gwynn Park linemen that know this and likely a few on every other team that has crossed the Wolverines’ path this season.
“I want to hit them in the mouth on the first play,” said Dews, a senior and a University of Tennessee recruit. “I love contact. That’s the best thing about football. That’s the reason you should play football — to make a big play. I mean, I’d rather make a big hit than get an interception. When I’m at defensive end, I want people to say, ‘Man, I never want to play Jerome Dews again.’ And when I’m playing on a receiver, man I just want to beat them up all day.”
Much to Dews’ pleasure, coach Ronnie Crump slots him at just about every position on the field, where he can lay a hit on just about anybody. Dews was originally recruited by the Volunteers to play outside linebacker, but has since been told he will likely play receiver in the Southeastern Conference. Crump, meanwhile, regularly rotates the 6-foot-4, 200 pound athlete between linebacker, receiver, cornerback, defensive end and tight end.
“That’s the intriguing thing about Jerome,” Crump said. “You don’t know what he’s going to be best at. He’s just very athletic, freakishly athletic. He can play a lot of positions. He can line up at wide receiver. He can line up at tight end. He can be a defensive end with his hands in the dirt and he can stand up and play linebacker.”
This kind of versatility has Crump drawing comparisons to Marlon Moore, who played at Potomac under Eric Knight in the late 1990s and helped the Wolverines reach the state championship game in his sophomore year.
Added to Dews’ ever-lengthening list of positions this season was one he had struggled with in years past: leader. Earlier this fall, Crump approached Dews and told him that “you’ve become a different Jerome,” Dews said. “He said I wasn’t being an ‘I’ player, that I was out there for the team more. I haven’t been getting on kids for messing up but showing them how to be better.”
During preseason practices, when players were getting into pads for the first time since the close of the 2012 season, Dews was working out with the linemen. His role was to get to a dummy quarterback. The player’s role across from him was to keep that from happening. On the first repetition, Dews drove him back so far he took him halfway up a hill — a good 15 yards past where he needed to be. With Dews the clear victor, the senior barked at the line coach to line him back up until his partner did it right. And so they ran it again and again until Dews was satisfied his quarterback would be in good hands with his partner protecting him.
“We work so hard in practice,” Dews said. “We forget all about the pain in our legs. We just keep going.”
And Dews keeps hitting. When Dionzae Foote’ intercepted a Jay Adams pass at the goal line in an eventual 18-12 loss to the Yellow Jackets, Dews cracked a would-be tackler so hard that the fans were celebrating not so much the timely pick, but the hit.
“It’s not funny,” Dews responded when asked if he ever felt a little remorse if someone he hits has to be helped off the field. “But I’m sorry, I’m not your friend. I want to intimidate you. It’s better for us if I hit someone and they’re basically playing with 10 guys on the field because one of them is scared and we’re playing with 11.”