There was a time when it appeared Tucker Lewis’ football career would come to a premature conclusion due to a pair of season-ending knee injuries. Fortunately for Black Bear fans, that possibility was never an option for the Harlan County standout.
“There was never really any thought about not playing football. It was kind of a bump in the road, but things happen. If you love something you don’t stop, you just keep rolling,” Lewis said. “This year has been overwhelming. I have worked so hard to get back out there — it just feels amazing to get back on the field with those guys.”
Lewis emerged onto the scene when he started for the Bears as a freshman. However, ACL injuries forced him to sit out much of the next two seasons. Two long rehabilitation stints later, he is back where he belongs — on the football field.
“He has been through a lot. When a kid has a knee injury like he did, a lot of times kids wont come back after the first time, let alone a second time,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “He has really faced a lot of adversity in his high school career, but he never would give up. He was always there with the team, even when he wasn’t able to play.”
Lewis’ toughness and perseverance have made him an inspiration in the Harlan County locker room.
“Tucker is a real leader. He is an outstanding young man and a great football player. It is just great to be around him,” Larkey said.
After missing most of his sophomore and junior season’s, Lewis has helped to pave the way for the state’s top rushing attack this year. Behind the punishing fullback, Harlan County has piled up 3,798 yards on the ground this season. Lewis has also carried the ball 14 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“You wouldn’t believe the times I have turned around and told Jake (Middleton) to follow me to the promised land. It is not a real glorified position, but it is really important,” Lewis said. “Our line does a good job, so if I can get through there and make a big block it will be a big play. If we are going to win a game and I can help by blocking then I will block my tail off all night.”
Lewis has also contributed heavily on the defensive side of the ball, where he has transitioned from middle linebacker to defensive end. He is currently fifth on the team with 57 total tackles.
“I can really use my size and strength at that position a lot better than I could at linebacker. I get to be one-on-one a lot of times with a lineman in front of me. It was rough at first because I had never played there,” said Lewis. “Coach Reynolds has taught me some different techniques. I can really get after it from that position.”
Lewis and the Black Bears will open the state 5A playoffs Friday at home against Lincoln County.
“I don’t plan on losing any games from here on out,” Lewis said. “We are going to work to make it to Bowling Green. I think we have a real shot.”