Terrell Lewis grateful to return to football field


CW / Joe Will Field

Inside of a dejected and somber locker room at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Terrell Lewis sat alone. 

To the then-true junior, being isolated and away from the rest of the team seemed to have become an unfortunate norm. In back-to-back seasons, an injury kept Lewis away from the sport he loves.

On Saturday, 659 days since his last SEC game, Lewis will finally suit up in an Alabama uniform and compete against an SEC opponent.

“It definitely feels good,” Lewis said. “Especially to start off in Atlanta with a field that I’m familiar with and then go back to Bryant-Denny (Stadium), that was kind of my first start at Bryant-Denny, so that was big to me.”

When Lewis takes the field against South Carolina on Saturday, it will be just his fourth career start and first on the road. His only other “road” starting experience is the short trip to Atlanta where he appeared in the 2017 National Championship against Georgia, not including this year’s season opener against Duke. 

“Man, it’s real fun” Lewis said. “I take everything for what it’s worth. So just being out there and being able to play against somebody else on a consistent basis is a blessing, for real.”

Due to his extensive time on the sideline, Lewis has gained an appreciation for every second he’s on the field. With that knowledge of how short a career can be, the 6-foot-5 linebacker shares his experience with his teammates to help push through adversity. 

“You’re seeing guys that are not putting forth full effort and you’re like, ‘You don’t even realize how much – you never know when this might be your last play,’” Lewis said. “That was my biggest thing, watching guys and being like, ‘You don’t even realize that if I could be out there, I would love to.’”

Lewis continued by revealing that these times were his “darkest” while on the road to recovery. The injuries to his arm and then to his knee had many doubting Lewis would make a return to the field, but he used those to fuel his recovery. 

Lewis’ Twitter header photo is a comment that reads, “I mean [the injury] will hurt his lateral movement but he is [an] edge rusher so that shouldn’t be too hard on him but he for sure won’t be what he was.”

The motivation to play every down like it is your last made Lewis an instant leader for the 2019 team.

I was really happy just to know how much of an enforcer he is to our defense and how much he helps our defense get better,” junior Xavier McKinney said. “For me, I was happy because I’m like, thank you. I’m glad he’s back because I know how much he helps out. Just seeing him and him being as healthy as he is, that makes me very happy.”

In his prior appearance in the 2017 season, the national championship against Georgia, Lewis showed a glimpse of the type of player he could be. In his first career start on the grandest stage, Lewis totaled a career high seven tackles and was responsible for making a clutch sack that thwarted Georgia’s overtime drive.

“I’m ready, but kind of like I’ve been saying, I’m kind of just taking everything day by day and kind of cherishing the fact that I get to be out there every day,” Lewis said in August. “I’m anxious, but in a sense I’m just ready every day I get to play football. So I don’t take no day for granted.”

If there’s any anxiety, Lewis has not shown it in the game. In the two games he started this year he leads the team in tackles for loss with two and is tied for first in both sacks and quarterback hurries. 

“He played well in the game,” coach Nick Saban said of Lewis’ performance against Duke. “He prepared well for the game. And I thought he did a really good job in the game. He put some pressure on the passer, played well on the edges, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to keep him healthy and he’ll be able to stay out there to do a good job for us all year.”

With Lewis working back to game readiness, the tandem of him and Anfernee Jennings becomes more formidable. Jennings finished the 2018 season with 13 tackles for loss, the third-most on the team. As Lewis becomes more comfortable, Alabama can keep consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, no matter which OLB is on the field. 

“Yeah, Terrell Lewis is pretty good. He’s not bad at all,” junior tight end Miller Forristall said jokingly. “I’m super excited to see him kind of get back out on the field. It’s been a couple years since he’s been healthy, and now he’s healthy it’s scary. So good luck to anybody trying to block him. That’s all I’ve got to say.”