This “hyena” has his ears perked up, hearing the noise from those who call him a weakness on the San Francisco 49ers.
Deommodore Lenoir, though, has let his “hyena” instincts kick in during the postseason — as a response to the criticism of being called a defender who gives up big plays. He’s snatched two interceptions during the playoffs, including on Dak Prescott in the 19-12 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, January 22. And now, there’s a warning sign Lenoir helped put up on the field for those who dare aim to test the “hyena.”
“I’m the youngest guy on the defense. I expected that [to be tested by teams]. But I embrace it. They want to come at me, I’m gonna make ’em pay,” Lenoir said via KNBR postgame.
Lenoir Was Given Advice From Past 49ers Star, Plus Receives love From Pro Bowler
Before his emergence as a starter and the 49ers’ top ball-hawk during the playoffs, Lenoir spent time with a past 49ers star in Richard Sherman.
The five-time Pro Bowler Sherman took to Twitter to ask some analyst questions, including how will Lenoir play against Dallas. Lenoir, though, recalled some advice the Super Bowl winning cornerback shared to the fellow L.A. region native Lenoir.
“One thing you told me was don’t make it bigger than what it is and I been picking s*** ever since,” Lenoir responded to Sherman while ending with “love you” to the Amazon Prime analyst.
Sherman responded with how he was so proud of Lenoir — encouraging him to show the world that he’s built different.
But Sherman wasn’t the only one with NFL accolades who gave Lenoir his praise. Green Bay Packers Pro Bowler Keisean Nixon, who played high school football with Lenoir at Bishop Mora Salesian, took to social media to praise Lenoir.
Lenoir Halfway to Matching 49ers History, Plus Reacts to Latest Pick
Per Josh Dubow of The Associated Press, Lenoir is halfway toward franchise history with the 49ers in the postseason. His two picks during the playoffs officially ties him with two past Super Bowl winners on the 49ers — and is two away from tying the franchise postseason mark made by another Vince Lombardi Trophy winner from S.F. in Eric Davis.
On his latest interception of the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Prescott, Lenoir told reporters he thought the Cowboys veteran was going to tuck it and run. But then Lenoir’s animalistic side on the field kicked in as he described it once he saw the ball.
“I broke on the route and I really didn’t think he was going to throw it. I thought it was about to be a scramble drill. But when I looked back, the ball was coming. And I was like…my hyena senses just kicked in. I just jumped for it,” Lenoir said.
David Lombardi of The Athletic shared how Lenoir has a near 40 inch vertical jump, which came in handy on that takeaway. And Lenoir snatched that pick while covering past 1,000-yard receiver Michael Gallup.
Gallup was held to zero catches facing Lenoir. Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard (who had to leave the game with a fractured fibula per ESPN NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer) were also unsuccessful catching a pass with Lenoir in coverage on their side. The only Cowboys wideout who had success facing Lenoir? Pro Bowler CeeDee Lamb, who caught three passes for 69 yards facing Lenoir in coverage and ended the day with 10 grabs for 117 yards. But Lenoir and the 49ers kept him out of the end zone.
In the playoffs, Lenoir has surrendered just five catches for 85 yards while being targeted 11 times. Saturday’s win additionally marked the 11th time this season Lenoir has allowed three catches or less in a game per PFF.
And Lenoir has stepped up by channeling his inner “hyena,” and has sent the warning sign to anyone who tests him moving forward.