Back from severe injury, Yorkville graduate Lewan provides ISU veteran leadership

Back from severe injury, Yorkville graduate Lewan provides ISU veteran leadership

Yorkville High School graduate Jason Lewan (94) has made 28 starts in his Illinois State career. (photo courtesy ISU Athletics)

NORMAL—The season has not yet kicked off, but the reality has already hit Jason Lewan.

“I just took that senior photo with (Coach Brock) Spack,” Lewan said at last week’s Illinois State football media day at Hancock Stadium. “I’d watch it happening every year and (hear) ‘Seniors up!’ and think one day I’ll be there, and now it is. It seems like just yesterday I was a tiny, little freshman. It goes by fast.”

There certainly have been fast times for the redshirt senior defensive lineman from Yorkville. Fast times like the 2019 road win against rival Southern Illinois in which Lewan registered two sacks, seven tackles and forced a fumble.

Fast times like when Lewan recorded sack in the first-round FCS playoff win at Southeast Missouri that same season.

But there have also been slow times such as the Covid-shortened 2021 spring season in which the Redbirds were forced to abandon their season as injuries mounted. Lewan was one of those causalities, missing the final two games that spring after sustaining a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.

Jason Lewan

The injury was so severe that Lewan missed the following fall camp and the start of last season.

“It definitely killed me. You worked so hard with those guys, my teammates, and then you had to take a backseat and take a different role by teaching more, not by example, but by using your experience,” Lewan said.

‘A little faster, a little leaner’

The 6-foot-6 Lewan rehabilitated and made his way back into the ISU lineup. Now as the Redbirds work their way through fall camp, Lewan is listed as the starting defensive tackle.

“It was a tough transition for me, but I’m glad to finally be back on the field,” he said. “(I’m) back at 100 percent. I had that spring and summer to get back but also to improve by getting a little faster, a little leaner. I feel great now.”

Listed at 305 pounds on the 2021 roster, Lewan now weighs in at 285 pounds. He has made 28 career starts for Illinois State.

Mentor role

Back to that senior photo with Spack, ISU’s all-time leader in coaching victories who is in his 14th year in Normal.

Lewan is one of 11 seniors listed on the Redbird roster — one of four that has spent his entire career at Illinois State.

“I definitely see myself getting into that mentor role now. I’m able to teach young guys, lead by example and set the standard for future years,” Lewan said.

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Blog co-authors Barry Bottino and Dan Verdun bring years of experience covering collegiate athletics. Barry has covered college athletes for more than two decades in his “On Campus” column, which is published weekly by Shaw Media. Dan has written four books about the state’s football programs–“NIU Huskies Football” (released in 2013), “EIU Panthers Football (2014), “ISU Redbirds” (2016) and “SIU Salukis Football” (2017).

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