He’s probably got the brightest smile on the field.
Junior Deangelo Antoine takes a lot of pride in the gold grill he wears over his teeth at almost every USF football game.
“The grill is what puts me in my comfort zone,” he said. “You go out there and look good, you play good.”
The on-field swag is more than a fashion statement, though. Antoine emulates Chris Johnson, the No. 24 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Johnson grew up in Orlando, just like Antoine. According to Antoine, Johnson played at ECU, always wore a grill and grew his hair out to shoulder-length dreadlocks, which also inspired Antoine.
“My favorite player was [Johnson] grouping up,” Antoine said. “I always wanted to grow my hair out, so when I finally got to that age, I asked my grandma…and she said yes.”
Antoine does more than just borrow style from Johnson. Teammate Ronnie Hoggins said in preseason camp that Antoine possessed “natural quickness.” Wide receiver Stanley Clerveaux called Antoine “explosive.” Antoine is fast, just like Johnson, who set a then-NFL Combine record 4.24-second 40-yard dash.
Antoine is listed as a defensive back on USF’s roster and started working with the Bulls’ secondary on defense at the beginning of the 2018 season.
Last season, which was cut short due to a leg injury, Antoine lined up as a wide receiver where he caught 11 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. The switch to defense this season was a change of pace, but hasn’t been an issue.
“Every day, he comes out to work,” Clerveaux said. “He doesn’t really complain about a lot of stuff. Just goes out there and does what he’s got to do.”
Still, Antoine is excited he’s been playing more snaps on offense as a receiver than he did at the beginning of the season.
“I love being back on offense,” he said. “It’s good being on the side of the ball that you enjoy making plays on with your teammates.”
In last weekend’s loss to Houston, Antoine caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. He’ll look to have another solid performance this weekend against Tulane (3-5, 2-2), which has shown a tendency to play a man-coverage defense. Antoine is excited to use his speed to get open downfield.
“We’re going to run faster than them,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got better athletes on our side of the ball, but we’re going to prepare for them just like any other team. We’re not going to overlook them. Right now, they’re the most important game coming up.”
This week in particular, Antoine said he has been working on coming off the ball with speed and getting on his defender as quickly as possible. Basically, he’ll run his route as fast as he can as soon as the ball is snapped, using his natural speed to his advantage.
The way he plays Saturday, Antoine said, will speak for itself.
“I’m not a really big talker,” he said. “I just let my actions do the talking for me.”
As for his flashing smile — don’t expect the grill to go away anytime soon.
“It’s some good stuff,” Clerveaux said. “I’m glad he plays with it.”