Levi Terrell starts senior season at Southeast after a career filled with injuries
Senior Levi Terrell has had multiple injuries and even witnessed his college football program get cut. But that hasn't stopped Terrell from becoming the starting running back for Southeast Missouri State University this season.
Terrell was supposed to be redshirted in 2009 and not play a down of football that season for the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, a member of the Division II Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. However, due to injury of multiple running backs, Terrell got his chance to play as a true freshman.
"I played my first game up there, and the first game I had like 44 carries, tied the school record for carries and 192 yards or something like that," Terrell said. "After that, I ended up keeping the starting spot and played throughout that season and was a second-year starter."
Terrell led the team with 235 carries and 1,182 rushing yards during his freshman season despite starting only six games and playing in eight. He also had seven touchdowns that season to go along with 156.9 rushing yards a game to lead the MIAA. Terrell was named the MIAA Freshman of the Year and earned the starting running back spot his sophomore season. That's when his first obstacle appeared.
Terrell missed the first three games of his sophomore season due to a pulled hamstring. Once he recovered, Terrell regained his starting running back status with 162 carries, 960 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Nebraska-Omaha announced that the school would be making the transition to the Division I Summit League after the 2010 season. This resulted in the football team being cut before the start of the 2011 season.
"Initially, I thought it was a joke," Terrell said. "None of us really understood what was going on. But once it kind of settled in, it was a pretty big hit, and of course everyone at first was mad. Everybody was pissed off."
Terrell knew he needed to find a new home fast. That's when Southeast football coaches contacted him. Southeast had been recruiting Terrell while he was at Fox High School in Arnold, Mo., where he ran for the school record in rushing yards and scoring in a single season.
"They gave me a call, I talked to coach and he was able to get me down here for a visit and everything, and I really liked it and this is where I ended up," Terrell said.
Terrell's junior season -- his first at Southeast -- was then cut short. During Southeast's fifth game of the 2011 season against Tennessee Tech, Terrell broke his collarbone and had to have surgery, which ended his season.
"Being injured before, I knew how to handle it," Terrell said. "Of course, that day I was pretty upset. Pretty quickly, I got my mindset right and knew you can't go back and change it."
This season, Terrell is leading the team with 444 yards rushing on 75 carries and had a career-high 171 yards rushing against Tennessee Tech Saturday.
"We were wondering how he was going to run as far as running physically," running backs coach Chris Norris said. "I think he still has screws or a plate in him, and you couldn't tell. He hadn't let that [injury] limit him at all."
Terrell believes he can do better and wants to get through a collegiate season healthy for the first time.
"I tend to be one of my biggest critics," Terrell said. "I still see a lot of things I need to work on. I'm still trying to get a lot of things better, but overall me and all the other guys, I think we're looking good."
Terrell reiterated that he prefers to focus on the team's goals instead of his own.
"I just want to be a team guy, and a lot of times people kind of ask about personal goals and what we're going to do," Terrell said. "If we don't get the win, personal goals don't matter. We're a family, and we're going all the way together or we're going to be left behind together."
Norris thinks that Terrell is on pace for a good season and that Terrell's work ethic is one of the best on the team. That's why many of his teammates look up to him as a leader and voted him a team captain.
"His work ethic is second to none. He's probably one of the hardest workers on this team," Norris said. "He's never complained, never acted like he was tired. I mean he just keeps working, working and working."