Two years ago, Winona football coach Joey Tompkins watched a sophomore running back from J.Z. George run for 228 yards against his defense, including a brilliant 96-touchdown run.
So Tompkins knew exactly what he was getting when he found out that Deriaun Townsend was transferring to Winona for his junior season.
“We played against them so I knew what kind of player he was,” Tompkins said. “And it didn’t take long to see it in practice. He hit the holes at a different speed than the other backs. We knew he was good before day one but on day one, we knew he was going to make us a whole lot better.”
And Townsend did just that for the Tigers as he led Class 3A in rushing, carries and touchdowns with 1,593 yards on 212 carries with 23 touchdowns. He was a Mississippi Association of Coaches Class 3A All-state first-team selection. That followed up a sophomore year where he ran for 1,378 yards at J.Z. George.
Not only has Townsend impressed on the field but he has made an impression in the classroom.
“He is a really good football player but he is probably a better man,” Tompkins said. “We are talking about a kid who is a straight A kid and is probably the most-like person by kids and faculty in our school. He’s a very humble young man who is really good in football. He’s very humble and doesn’t want the recognition. He’s one of those guys that when you get into coaching that you hope that you get to coach one day.”
For Townsend, it was a smooth transition for several reasons.
“I thought the transition was smooth because I knew a lot of people from Winona already and they welcomed me with open arms,” Townsend said. “We did a lot of things that I didn’t do at George but I thought the coaches did a great job of how to run things and I thought they did things that fit my strength.”
In his first game with the Tigers, Townsend helped Winona to a 49-39 win over Kosciusko as he ran for 222 yards and three TDs with electrifying runs of 57 and 69 yards.
“He’s fast but he’s not a blazer per se,” Tompkins said. “He’s probably going to be a high 4.6 guy in the 40. But he’s 200 pounds and about 5-foot-10. He has a low center of gravity and has good vision and is really quick. I’ll say this, I haven’t seen him get caught from behind and we played some good opponents. For me, it’s what you can run with your pads on and I haven’t seen him get caught from behind yet. I think he’s as fast as he needs to be.”
Despite his outstanding stats to end the season, Tompkins said it could have been even better.
“He hurt his ankle early on in the season and we wrapped it all season,” Tompkins said. “He played with it all year, but I know we wrapped it every day and would limit his running at time. Then he hurt it pretty bad against Noxubee in the playoffs. He’s casted up and getting that off so hopefully that will do the trick for him and he can go into the season completely healed. But I don’t ever think he was ever completely 100 percent healed.”
As Townsend heads into his senior season, Tompkins said it’s hard to say how many touches he will get this season.
“Last year, our quarterback got hurt and we had a freshman in there and didn’t want to run him a lot so Deriaun probably got more carries than we expected him to,” Tompkins said. “This year, we have our quarterback back and a backup who has proven he can play so we probably won’t have to lean on him so hard. But with that said, he is still going to get his touches. Our goal is to run 70 plays on offense so we would like for him to touch it at least 15 to 20 times a game. We’ve got more weapons back this year, and I think that will help him and take the focus off him.”
Despite those impressive numbers, the college interest has been slow for Townsend. He currently only has one offer from Coahoma Community College and interest from several of the state’s junior colleges.
“He has offers from the junior colleges but doesn’t have that D1 offer right now,” Tompkins said. “I’ll be shocked if East Central doesn’t offer him and Northeast is looking at him. I feel like all of the junior colleges will offer him. As soon as they sit down with him, they all really like him. I don’t know where he will end up but I think he is better than Division II. I’ve talked with Duke about him.”
Townsend has already qualified with a 23 on the ACT and has a 3.61 GPA.
“A lot of junior college coaches have come by and talked with me,” Townsend said. “Coahoma is the only one that has offered me and I’m thankful for that offer. Growing up, I liked to watch Mississippi State. I love that atmosphere and that’s my dream school. But I would consider offers from any four-year school.”
Townsend said the ankle injury has been tough on him because he hasn’t been able to work out as much as he likes. But Townsend said he still does pushups every day and when he gets bored will play Madden on his PlayStation 4. And this summer, Townsend said he will be working for the city of Winona as well.
Tompkins might have put it best about Townsend, summing up his star running back.
“He is a very genuine kid,” Tompkins said. “When you talk to him, he talks like a young man. He doesn’t waver from that. He’s very humble and appreciative of what happens for him and to him. He’s a rare one, that’s for sure.”