Three years ago, Deantre Lewis looked unstoppable. The true freshman running back was turning heads with his speed, field vision and versatility and had already proven himself a potent weapon in ASU’s arsenal.
Two months after the 2010 season, which saw him accumulate 909 total yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns, the Norco, Calif., native was at a relative’s house when he was struck by a stray bullet. The incident forced him to redshirt in 2011 and reevaluate his future in the game he loved.
“I’ve had that all the time,” Lewis said of his doubts. “It was a struggle getting healthy again, and learning how to walk again because the muscles wouldn’t work. I always thought that if I just give up, I’d have an excuse. But then I thought that it wasn’t something that I want to do. Giving up is too easy.”
Following months of rehab and a coaching change, Lewis returned to the field in 2012 and saw action in nine games. But he lacked that explosive burst and depth issues forced him to switch to defensive back, where he made four tackles, while seeing light action in the backfield with 11 carries for 39 yards.
Other players may have been discouraged and transferred to a situation that would have given them more opportunity. Lewis credits his strong support system of teammates and coaches for keeping him in a positive frame of mind.
“It’s awesome,” said Lewis of the support. “They kept me going. They always told me to push myself everyday and it will get better. There are days that it jumps up, and there are days that it falls back. (They) were supporting me through everything.”
Lewis’ hard work was evident in the spring, where his gamebreaking form began to reemerge. The coaches identified him as one of the standouts, noting that his speed, agility and explosiveness had returned.
“I’ve progressed a lot,” Lewis said of his progress. “From a physical standpoint, mentally, I feel like I’m already there.”
The Sun Devils feature two very talented running backs in Marion Grice and DJ Foster, who combined for 2,130 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns in 2012. In addition, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has a plethora of options to make “High Octane” light up the scoreboard, including several gifted, young wideouts and dependable tight end Chris Coyle. Adding a healthy Lewis to the fold could give ASU an edge against one of the most difficult schedules in the country.
“The coaches talk about it all the time about how they’re going to get all three of us on the field and how they are going to keep it that way,” said Lewis. “That’s being a threat to get to the end zone all of the time. It’s nice that our offensive coordinator is thinking that way.”
Lewis has carried over his playmaking from the spring, carving his niche in the running back corps, where there is plenty of opportunity for success. And, with his confidence renewed and his body healed, Lewis looks poised for a comeback season in 2013.