That’s one way to look at it. An interesting view, too, considering everything Mississippi State’s senior receiver has endured this interrupted season. Maybe what Jameon Lewis means is after serious setback for a leg injury and his sputtering recovery, the spectacular play-maker of 2013 has returned just in time for a 2014 stretch run.
That Lewis once again looks like himself.
“I just got my strength back in my leg and feeling healthy, that’s all. That’s the biggest change for me in the last couple of months. I’ve been down but now I’m back up.”
A five-catch, one-touchdown day against Alabama does signal Lewis’ senior season is on the up-tick. Since taking a hit to the right leg at Louisiana State and aggravating the injury himself the next week, Lewis missed three entire games and played limited snaps in two others.
Now there aren’t any limits. Or for the moment regrets. Those may come after the season but at the moment Lewis is intent on finishing fast and strong.
“It’s been rough. It’s been I think a life-lesson experience for me. Like how to battle through adversity. It’s been kind of hard, but I’ve still managed.”
Kind of hard? Well yeah, a cracked fibula can be a little tough on a ballplayer. Especially a slot receiver whose game is built on bursting off the line, planting-and-cutting, going up quick and coming down hard and often as not taking immediate contact. One can see where Lewis has had it kind of hard since a big night in Baton Rouge.
A five-catch, 116-yard night with the clutch 74-yard touchdown play to keep the Bulldogs in control of what became the first of five-straight SEC victories. After a slow start to the season, while Mississippi State worked younger receivers into live snaps, there was Lewis coming to the forefront as expected.
Only to take a long step away from the field. He just didn’t realize it at the time and accepts some blame for it. He wouldn’t ask for detailed examination even though his lower leg went numb “for 30 minutes” by Lewis’ accounting.
“Nah, I didn’t think it was that serious. If I thought it was that serious I wouldn’t have practiced in the bye week when I actually hurt myself, the bye week.”
Many saw Lewis limping after LSU, but not until he was held out of the Texas A&M game was it clear something had gone really wrong. The break was high in the bone, below the knee, though nobody would officially say so. Only Coach Dan Mullen comments on injuries and he wasn’t talking on this one. But it wasn’t being secretive so much as the uncertainty because the break wasn’t crippling per se.
Painful? Oh, yes. “I couldn’t do nothing on it, not even jog. That’s when I knew it was something serious, that Thursday playing Texas A&M when it really happened.” Lewis had to excuse himself from the final practice series and wouldn’t get a live snap again until Kentucky. A week later he caught a short ball against Arkansas but was far from himself still.
If he could do it all over… “What I learned, when you go numb and can’t do nothing for so long,” said Lewis. “I learned get x-rayed the next day because it’s serious. I didn’t think it was that serious but it turned around and bit me at the end.”
Happily it wasn’t the end of his season. Not at all. Though, his Alabama experience didn’t begin so great. He had one catch for six yards as State fell behind 19-3 at halftime. In the third quarter Lewis ran a fine route, got wide-open on 3rd-and-9 for Dak Prescott to put the ball right on the maroon ‘4’…only to just plain drop a catch that would have moved the chains.
”I mean it was very frustrating,” Lewis said. “And that’s really a mind thing, if you let it get to you. Don’t have nothing in the back of your head like somebody is fixing to hit you or this and that. Just catch it and run. I tried to run before I caught it.”
There was nowhere to run with the ball on that 4th-and-goal throw at the end of the afternoon. All Lewis had to do was come down in the end zone this time…after going up for the high ball and adjusting in-air and all the acrobatic stuff Lewis showed so often as a junior. If the touchdown catch didn’t change that game, it may change what State can do in the passing plans in upcoming contests.
“It boosted me up,” said Lewis. “I really didn’t even need that to boost me up because if I feel good I know I’m good. It’s all about my health; if I can go I’m going to go. It’s all about the strength I have.”
The senior season won’t be as statistically-strong as what Lewis did last year, with 64 catches for 923 yards and five touchdowns. Through seven games this year he has 21 balls, 267 yards and two scores. Never mind the numbers. Lewis has returned to the forefront of Bulldog gameplans in time for big-time games where every route counts.
“I’ve been trying to get back. Just being not on the field and watching my guys do work, it kind of rough. Because you want to be on the field with those guys putting in work. But at the end of the day everything happens for a reason. I just have to control what I can.”
Health, now, that’s not entirely within a player’s control. Lewis won’t say he is 100%, just that he’s feeling as good as he has in a long time. “I’m almost there, but I’ll think I’m 100% when I have no feeling in my leg at all. I’m probably not far off, like 95% or 90%.”
Where Lewis is 100%-strong is what Mississippi State has within reach for the rest of this season. His own career-timing has been excellent, as part of a record five Bulldog bowling teams. A victory over Vanderbilt will also give Lewis and Dogs of all classes a place in history, on the first ten-win regular season team ever to call Scott Field home. Then there is the over-arching matter of playing for a place in the first College Football Playoffs.
“It means a lot. Because you always want to be on the winning side. I think as far as the program it ain’t nothing but going up from here on. And to be a part of it is a blessing, because it was a great opportunity for me. Just to play in the SEC is a blessing to any guy coming from where I came from.”