Back from severe foot injury, Illinois State DL Lewan ready for last ride with Redbirds

Illinois State defensive lineman Jason Lewan is fully healed from a foot injury that kept him out of the lineup for much of the 2021 season. (Photo by

By Dan Verdun

“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.”

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

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 a 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 casualties, missing the final two games that spring after sustaining a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.

The injury — which occurs in the mid-foot because of bone fractures and/or torn ligaments — 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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