No one will ever mistake Dayan Lake
for a spectator on a football field.
The Northridge (Layton)
senior always finds a way to make plays in all three phases of the game. That's why it felt especially cruel to Lake when a severe ankle injury sidelined him in games against Olympus and Highland earlier this season.
He just couldn't stand being forced to be a spectator and began itching to strap on his pads and helmet and get back out there again. The ankle injury wasn't of the season-ending variety, so a door opened for Lake to return.
"After the pain wouldn't go away for a while through physical therapy, our trainer said, 'You're going to have pain for a while. You can play and face the pain or sit out,'" Lake said. "I just chose to play with the team. It's better than nothing. It's my senior year too, so I'm trying to play all the games I can."
Lake returned in Northridge's region opener against Viewmont. His ankle was sore enough to keep him from practicing all week leading up to the game, but it didn't show on the football field. He rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries to help the Knights win 31-24. He followed up with 182 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in a 30-29 loss to Syracuse a week later.
Making a big splash is nothing new for Lake, who committed to play for BYU after the Cougars offered him a scholarship before his junior season.
"I look at it like every play is your last," Lake said. "Every single game is the state championship game or whatever. That's all I think about. Every game is important - it doesn't matter who we play."
His Northridge coaches love that attitude because it greatly influences how things turn out for the Knights in the win/loss column every week.
For evidence of his impact, no one need look farther than what Lake did as a junior. On offense, he accumulated 694 yards and five touchdowns on 125 carries as well as 722 yards and four touchdowns on 60 receptions. As far as defense goes, Lake built upon a sophomore season where he had 90 tackles by piling up 56 tackles, two sacks and an interception.
"Dayan is one of the more unique football players to ever play in the state," Northridge coach Erik Thompson said. "He's good at everything. I've never seen anyone who impacts the game in more different ways. The key to his importance to the team is the diversity he brings. He's like a Swiss Army knife."
Lake might possess all the functional tools as a football player like the fabled Swiss Army knife, but his first love will always be running the ball. He didn't get a real chance to play running back until his final year of little league football in eighth grade.
Once given an opportunity to play in the backfield, Lake knew he didn't want to do anything else. It ended up being even more fun than he first imagined.
"It was always my dream to play running back," Lake said, noting how he grew up watching Reggie Bush and loving how he played.
Since committing to play for BYU, Lake has received plenty of attention from other schools trying to get him to de-commit and consider other options. After returning from a 7-on-7 camp in Las Vegas last year, for example, Lake found letters from more than 50 schools in his mailbox – coming from teams like Oregon, California, Alabama and USC.
Heightened attention from other colleges hasn't shaken Lake's resolve to play for BYU – a school he feels approaches football the right way.
"They care more about who you are, what you stand for and what you're going to do after football is over," Lake said. "They want you to be educated and don't just say, 'Play for us. We'll care about you then, but after that you're on your own.'"
For now, Lake is focused on putting together a memorable senior season. Thompson said Lake's effort separates him from many other players at a similar talent level. He believes the Knights would not be anywhere close to the same team without him out there.
"He plays hurt," Thompson said. "He's tough. He's the real deal. We're glad to have him." John Coon covers Utah high school sports for MaxPreps. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @johncoonsports