After Penei Sewell was injured against Washington, he returned to left tackle and helped lead Oregon on a touchdown drive.
When Sewell went back to the sideline, the pain in his ankle returned.
“I sat there and thought ‘I’m not sure I can finish the game’,” he recalled.
Sewell sat out the remainder of Oregon’s 30-27 upset win over the Huskies on Oct. 14, but went out to celebrate with family members after the game. It was not until the following day that he learned he had a high ankle sprain.
“I got the message that I couldn’t play the rest of the regular season, but everything was going by so quick I didn’t have many emotions,” Sewell said. “I said ‘Alright, that is the situation so lets do this and get me back on the field’.”
Sewell has returned to bowl practices on a limited basis while working toward a return when the Ducks (8-4) face Michigan State (7-5) in the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 in Santa Clara, Calif.
“When I heard we were going to a later bowl game, that motivated me more,” Sewell said. “I asked what I needed to do and when they said it all, I thought there had to be more. I wanted to do more, more, more so I would be ready to play in this bowl game.”
Sewell became the first true freshman to start the season opener on the offensive line for Oregon since 1997 and kept that spot for the first six games before injury while racking up credentials to be considered as a freshman All-American.
“He is like my little brother but he is so mature that it seems like he is another veteran,” said Oregon left guard Shane Lemieux, who lines up next to Sewell. “Having him back is really nice. He is real physical and the edge he brings motivates me to up my game. After I see a freshman who is so good, I think I need to step my game up. He’s a real big competitor and I like his energy when he is on the field.”
The 6-foot-6, 345-pound Sewell was running and doing cardio work while sidelined to stay physically prepared for a bowl game. After he and his teammates return home for Christmas, Sewell expects to be “full-go and 100 percent” when the team resumes practices in the Bay Area.
“I need to be smart about my injury because I know my body,” said Sewell, who suffered a torn labrum following his senior year at Desert Hills High School in St. George, Utah.
Calvin Throckmorton moved from right tackle to the left side to replace Sewell and also started at center against Utah when Jake Hanson was suspended for the first half.
“Penei is such an incredible competitor in everything he does,” Throckmorton said. “It is awesome to see him out there continuing to get better and practice. He is really getting ready for the big game we have to play.”
Steven Jones started at left tackle against Utah before suffering a concussion that forced him to miss the final two games of the regular season. Jones is also expected to return for the Redbox Bowl as Oregon tries to get back to full strength on the line.
“Who knows?” Throckmorton said when asked where he will line up against Michigan State. “It is going to continue to be a big carousel. We will see what the best group of five is going to be.”