Nov. 24, 2004
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NOTE: This article is one of five profiling the senior class of the 2004 Iowa Hawkeyes. It originally appeared in one of the football game programs.
Senior Jermelle Lewis has had his share of ups and downs.
After a redshirt season in 2000 where he earned the Team Leader Award, Lewis’ grades kept him out of action in 2001, even losing his scholarship for a semester and having to pay tuition out-of-pocket.
Lewis came off that period of his college career, though, with a spectacular 2002 season that made him the team’s second-leading rusher with games like the one against Michigan, where he came off the bench for 18 carries, 109 yards and a touchdown. He also had two receptions, including a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brad Banks in the second half.
If that was an up, then last season would have to be a down.
Lewis missed the first six games of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury that required surgery and a long period of recovery. And it wasn’t until Iowa’s victory in the Outback Bowl that he really felt like himself again.
Now, the best prospect at running back going into the 2004 season is out again because of another ACL injury. But that hasn’t slowed the runner down.
“I’ve taken my blows,” the Connecticut native said. “And I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m going to move on.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz agrees.
“He’s an excellent football player,” Ferentz said. “He loves to play the game, the competition, every aspect of it. He has the opportunity to put the peaks and valleys behind him.”
That type of unflinching support from his coach is just one reason why Lewis is happy to be a Hawkeye.
“I have to take my hat off to Coach Ferentz,” he says. “He’s a good man. He’s more than just a coach for me. There were times when I thought Coach Ferentz would be like, `I can’t deal with you anymore. You’ve made too many mistakes.’ But he stuck by me. He told me everything was going to be cool and that I had to make the best of it.”
Ferentz says it’s fair to say that the two have had a lot of talks over the past four years, but he compares his leading rusher to his teams over the past five years at Iowa.
“We’ve lost a lot of games early, but if you can take from those hardships and make those negative experiences work for you, you’ll have a happy ending,” Ferentz said. “I hope that’s what happens with Jermelle.
“We’ve lost a lot of games early, but if you can take from those hardships and make those negative experiences work for you, you’ll have a happy ending. I hope that’s what happens with Jermelle.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“Where we stand today, he’s one semester away from graduation. Despite everything that’s happened, that will be a reality for him. It should be a reality, and that’s exciting in my mind. It’s an exciting time in his life.”
That confidence is reassuring to Lewis.
“It means a lot,” he said. “If you can’t get the support from the head coach, you lose your faith and your confidence. If the coach doesn’t like me, it’s going to be hard for me to focus and play for him.”
The other person in Lewis’ life that has gotten him through the rough spots has been his mother, Cathy Andrews, who can usually only offer support from a distance.
“I’ve always been through a lot of hurdles in my life, and the day I found out I tore my ACL, I called her and I could hear in her voice that she was kind of heartbroken,” Lewis said. “She really didn’t want me to know that she was feeling bad about it.
“I really honor my mom. She’d go to the end of the earth for me, and I’d do the same for her. She’s my best friend,” Lewis added. “And when everything was going downhill, she was there for me.”
Andrews says that she first realized the profundity of her relationship with her son when he was in eighth grade.
“I always told him that I would be there,” she said from her home in Bloomfield, CT. “He started to respond to that.”
Andrews’ support of her son has also gained the attention of his coaches.
“I give her a lot of credit, because I don’t know if all parents would be so committed,” Ferentz said. “She supported him and stuck by him the whole way.”
Andrews came to visit her son during the week of the Penn State game, and both she and the coach say that Jermelle is in “great spirits.”
“There’s not much he can do right now,” Ferentz said. “The key thing that he has to focus on is finishing his degree in December and rehab, and that’s a pretty simple formula.”
“He’s in good spirits. I’m really surprised by that,” Andrews said. “He’s being optimistic and realistic. He knows its not over. He will be the first of my children to graduate from college.”
“The fantastic thing, for me, is that he should have his degree by December. When he gets that done, I’m confident everything else will fall into place for him,” Ferentz added.
But with such unflinching support from mother and coach, it appears that everything has already fallen into place for the player on the team nicknamed, `Skills.’
“It’s a pretty good nickname,” Ferentz says. “The shoe fits.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com