The following is the result of two different interviews done with Demetris Summers over the course of three days. I did not ask him the cliche questions and he did not give me the cliche answers.
An observation here. Living in Lexington, I've watched, observed and interacted with Demetris since his junior year at Lexington High School. I know more things about the young man than probably anyone else with the exception of his coaches, his Mom and a few select close friends. I have seen him progress and digress and progress again. I have watched him grow both mentally and physically. I believe I am beginning to understand how he perceives things at times and it is different than many of the rest of us ... I believe that to be the product of his early stardom.
With that said, he gave me the following two exclusive interviews that I think, while fairly short, are extremely revealing. Da Meat is growing into a man in a hurry. He is taking life more seriously these days ... but he still has that smile of his and his social skills are growing in leaps and bounds.
Part I: Thursday before the Ole Miss game.
Rooster: Meat, how are you physically, top to bottom and beginning with the ankle?
Meat: Oh it's pretty good. It's going to be there all season but it's not something I am going to let stop me. Some days it hurts and others it doesn't. I am just going to keep going out there and playing on it and doing what I have to do. But it is fine right now. I'm good everywhere else.
Rooster: You've missed a lot of minutes with various injuries. Is it tough doing the up and down thing with playing time and staying mentally prepared for this level of competition?
Meat: You know where I see the biggest difference after missing playing time? I see it probably when making cuts and things and the coaches always show me that on film. But I think I am getting back in a groove ... I am better if I don't miss playing time, you're right about that.
Rooster: Ok then, tough question to follow, are you ready?
Meat: Yes sir.
Rooster: Are you ever concerned, or do you listen to, the doubts and questions sometimes when some of us, fans and media alike, question your dedication to the game and to the program?
Meat: No, I don't think so. I think I am pretty dedicated. I really do try my hardest when I am out there, plus I practice hard too. People are only going to see what's on the outside, what other people are saying and stuff like that. Not everyone can see the practices and no one else is inside my head so I can understand how they might think some things they might not know a lot about. But people that know me know I will do whatever it takes to do what's best for my team.
Rooster: Did you make a mistake this past summer by not practicing with the team? Did it put you behind everyone else early?
Meat: Yeah, that was a mistake on my part and I learned a lesson from it. You know, looking back, I could have done more to get stronger and faster, but you know ... I kinda made a bad decision. I've paid for that and I will not make the same mistake again.
Rooster: So next summer ... ?
Meat: Next summer I will be practicing and working out with my teammates. I'm not going to go it alone next summer. I'll use next summer to get faster and stronger than I am this year. I recognize the mistake I made.
Rooster: Another tough question Meat. You've missed a lot of time in roughly a season and a half. You've had a concussion, a groin pull and now a high ankle sprain. Are you injury prone in your opinion?
Meat: Who says that? Where is that coming from? I have never heard that before.
Rooster: Meat, it's not something that is new. Think about it. Fans are wondering. Media are wondering. I mean if you think about it why wouldn't we all ask this question? Out of the last what, 17 games you've missed all or part of five or six games because of injuries.
Meat: No, I don't think I am injury prone. It's just a thing that happens. You have to deal with it and just keep moving. My injuries have been real. I've never used them to miss games on purpose though and I think everyone needs to realize that. These things happen in this game.
Rooster: So you understand how much this team depends on you then right? Fans, players, coaches ... they all say 'with Demetris in the game we are a different team.' That sounds to me like they are saying they need you in the game as much as possible. Are you comfortable with that kind of responsibility?
Meat: You know, I don't know if that's really the case. We've got some good backs other than me. But I hear what you are saying. I am listening. All I can say is that I will try even harder. They tell me 'we need you back' a lot and I am doing my best to get back out there.
Rooster: Is your ankle 100%?
Meat: Right now I think it is. It may not be tomorrow and then the next day it may be again. You never know but right now I think it is. But it's something that can change quick you know so I try not to focus on whether it is 100% or 20%. I try to focus on keeping my mind right and keeping my mind 100% becuase that is where it all happens ... you know what I mean?
Rooster: You are a hero to a lot of young kids around here.
Meat: I am?
Rooster: Yes you are. Kids look to you and want to be like you someday. Does that bother you?
Meat: I guess I have never really thought about it too much.
Rooster: Are you coming home for the off week? I think Lexington is playing at home that weekend.
Meat: Yes sir.
Rooster: When you do, look around and see how the kids come to you.
Meat: Yeah, I guess you are right. I just never really thought too much about it before.
Rooster: Does that change things in your mind?
Meat: I think so. I need to think about it.
Rooster: Ok then Meat, I'll see you out in Lexington during the off week.
Meat: Ok, see you then.
That concludes the first part of the interview. The second part took place immediately following the Ole Miss game.
For those that noticed, Meat was hobbled early in the game and came up limping. I watched him on the sidelines as he had his ankle worked on - and I was wondering to myself how he was going to react. Quite frankly, I did not expect him to return - and if he did, I did not expect him to last based upon past history. Bu as everyone saw for themselves, he stuck it out. He waived off a replacement and stayed in the game. A bridge had been crossed in Meat's mind in my opinion ... and I asked him about it after the game.
Rooster: Meat, did the team overlook Ole Miss at all?
Meat: No sir, I don't think we did. We worked hard this week but once we got in the game they had a good gameplan and came with so many tricky blitzes that at first we couldn't pick them up. But after a while we started catching on to it. This is a very disappointing loss.
Rooster: When we talked a few days ago we talked about your ... injury thing for lack of a better way of putting it. But Meat, tonight I saw you waiving them off and telling them that you were staying on the field. Is that your new mental frame of mind?
Meat: Yeah, I don't want people to look at me and think 'he's soft' and all that. From now on I am going to try to fight through it. If it is hurtin' I am justgoing to have to learn to deal with it and keep playing. You know, it is time for me to turn into a man - you have to turn into a man sometimes and just keep playing. I decided it was time for me to man-up.
Rooster: Meat, it looked like you were really hurting. Was it your ankle again?
Meat: Yes sir. It was my ankle.
Rooster: Same ankle?
Meat: Yes sir.
Rooster: Is that something that is going to hamper you this year?
Meat: Not if I can help it. I mean it is probably always going to be real sore but I've been thinking about it. I just need to learn to keep dealing with it and keep playing.
Rooster: Ok, well ... I hear you. So now you are learning to deal with the pain - how are you planning on dealing with this loss to Ole Miss?
Meat: You're going to always remember losses like this but we're going to have to get over it real quick and start getting ready for Kentucky. We can't let this affect us and keep us from getting better each week. I think this loss and how we recover is going to tell us something about ourselves as a team. We'll just have to wait and see.
Rooster: Thanks Demetris. Good luck next week.
Meat: You're welcome. Thank you too.
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