TAMPA — Eddy Pierre-Louis grinned and chuckled, deep and low. His big, broad shoulders shook.
“How do I feel when Lewis Carter gets a handoff?” asked Pierre-Lewis, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound junior guard for Tampa Catholic. “I feel great. I know when Lewis has the ball, we’re going to gain yards. I tell the coaches all the time, ‘Give Lewis the ball!’”
Carter — a 6-foot, 215-pound senior who benches more than 400 pounds and is muscled like a superhero — gave a little grin and a shrug. He didn’t want to talk about how good of a football player he might be.
Instead, he deferred: “I feel good knowing I’m running behind teammates like Eddy.”
Pierre-Louis said Carter is nothing if not humble, which is cool because Carter is one of the most highly rated players in the country, an Oklahoma commit ranked No. 10 in the nation at linebacker by 247 Sports.
Linebacker? What about running back?
Tampa Catholic coach Jeris McIntyre said Carter has played both positions at Tampa Catholic, along with safety, cornerback, receiver and kick returner. But McIntyre said Carter is almost assuredly going to be a linebacker for the Sooners, a notion that is fine with Carter.
“I like the freedom I feel on defense,” said Carter, who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. “I can cover, blitz, attack, hit people. I love all of that. I love that variety. I look forward to it.”
But, Carter says, first things first, which this week means having Tampa Catholic (7-1) focus on Jesuit (6-3), the arch-rival who has beaten the Crusaders 22 straight times.
“Enough is enough,” said Carter, who the past three years has lost to the Tigers 31-21, 35-21 and 42-0. “This year feels different. I feel this team is more in sync, more together.”
That said, expect Carter to play plenty on both sides of the ball, a trend that has been devastating to opponents the past two weeks: In a 70-35 victory over Robinson on Oct. 21, Carter had nine carries for 212 yards, five touchdowns and seven tackles, a performance he followed last week with six carries for 102 yards, two touchdowns and 13 tackles in a 35-14 victory over Jefferson.
For the season, Carter has rushed 37 times for 462 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 9.6 tackles a game, numbers McIntyre believes will continue to climb through the playoffs.
“We certainly feel blessed to have a talent like Lewis Carter playing for us,” said McIntyre, a Tampa Catholic and Auburn alumnus. “I’ve been around a lot of great players, and Lewis is high on the list of those great players — and not just because of his ability. He’s great for all kinds of reasons.”
Pierre-Louis, another celebrated recruit with dozens of big-time college offers (and brother of current Florida lineman Richard Gouraige) — said he simply looks up to Carter.
“Lewis is like a big brother to me,” Pierre-Lewis said. “He brought me in my freshman year and took me in the weight room and showed me how to do things the right way. We see how he works and how he acts, and we are happy to follow.”
Carter says he’s never going to change.
“I know that any day all this stuff can leave at the snap of your fingers,” he said. “So I appreciate every day. I really don’t feel like I’m different from anybody else, except for putting in the work. I know it’s the work that has gotten me where I’m at far more than anything else. It’s all about the work.”