Even in injury, Lewis still contributing to Bruins

8 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Thursday, October 17 2019 Oct 17, 2019 Thursday, October 17, 2019 11:59:18 PM CDT October 17, 2019 in Friday Night Fever
By: Liad Lerner, Columbia Missourian

De Smet quarterback AJ Fraser took the snap, faked a handoff on the read option play and started running toward the line of scrimmage midway through the second quarter of the Spartans’ game against Rock Bridge on Sept. 6.

Bruins linebacker Jaden Lewis was blitzing on the play, and had to adjust when Fraser decided to take it for himself. Lewis caught up to Fraser and brought him down, landing at the bottom of a dog pile in the process.

De Smet would go on to win that game 50-7, but Lewis wouldn’t be a part of the rest of it. His night — and perhaps his season — ended on that play.

“I knew something was bad (as soon as) I went down, because I had never felt pain like that before, especially in my foot,” Lewis said. “I knew something was bad right away and I couldn’t get up when I fell.”

Lewis was diagnosed with a fractured right ankle later that night. The initial tests said he would miss 4-6 weeks. But a couple of days later, it was apparent that Lewis would likely be out for the entire season. His senior season.

“It was very sad,” Lewis said. “I didn’t know what to think because it was my senior year and I just didn’t know how to respond to it. It was a very life-changing moment.”

After spending much of his junior season as a backup, Lewis had been set to star as a middle linebacker this season alongside Will Norris, a fellow senior who committed to play football at Missouri in July.

“He’s got a dog mentality for sure,” Norris said. “He’s always been the underdog, but he can do some great things.”

Lewis performed well against Rockhurst in Week 1 with one sack and three assisted tackles, but he was really on a roll in the next game against De Smet.

He had already racked up two tackles, one of which was for loss, and three assisted tackles less than 14 minutes into that eventual blowout at the hands of the Spartans. But then came that fateful pileup and the injury that came with it. All of a sudden, the rest of Lewis’ career was potentially up in smoke.

“You’re always one snap away,” coach Van Vanatta said. “You just never know when you’re going to have something taken from you.”

But that hasn’t stopped Lewis from doing everything he can for his Bruins. The senior shows up to every practice, boot on his right foot, and is always on hand to assist the players and coaching staff. Lewis says that even though he’s not on the field, he’s still a teammate and he still wants to help his “brothers” out.

“A lot of kids would be in a funk,” Vanatta said. “But he’s here every day; he supports his teammates and he does it with a smile.”

And when Lewis visited the doctor again Wednesday, he was given a lifeline of hope. He was cleared to start rehab, and he could start fully practicing again as soon as Oct. 23. While Rock Bridge’s game against Francis Howell on Oct. 25 comes too early for him to return, Lewis is aiming toward being back on the field at some point in the playoffs.

“I was relieved,” Lewis said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, it’s not over until they say it’s over.’”

Now the Bruins just have to stay alive long enough for him to get healthy.

Lewis was disappointed with Rock Bridge’s 0-4 start; he thought a few of those games could have gone the other way if the Bruins had executed better. But now that the team has won three consecutive games, he is confident the Bruins can keep things rolling against Helias (6-1) and Francis Howell (6-1) in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Whether or not he makes it back onto the field, Lewis’ teammates say they know he’ll continue to contribute.

“I’m glad he’s getting the chance to come back,” Norris said. “I know it means a lot to him to finish out his senior year and he can benefit our team a lot.”

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