BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis just wanted to be a regular college kid this summer - go to the beach, hang out with friends.
Instead, there were funerals.
First, Hoosiers coach Terry Hoeppner died at 59 on June 19 from complications of a brain tumor. Days later, J.D. Hall, Lewis' high school coach in Florida, died of a heart attack at 35.
``I was really in a state of depression,'' Lewis said. ``I was less patient, saying things to my mom that I had never said to her. I had to apologize to her three or four times a week, and I was snapping at friends. I'm just not like that normally.''
The Hoosiers spent spring practice dodging questions about Hoeppner's illness - the usual weightlifting and running were a relief. In mid-June they attended Hoeppner's memorial service. Now another round of questioning awaits, with preseason practice opening Monday.
Can they reach a bowl game? Will they live by the inspirational words of Hoeppner's favorite poem, ``Don't Quit''? Will Hoeppner's wife, Jane, play a prominent role in the program? And, of course, how will they overcome the loss of their leader?
Coach Bill Lynch acknowledged in June this may be the most difficult part of the grieving process for the players because most have never dealt in public with such an experience. The bigger concern may be the team's emotional state.
Athletic department officials have offered counseling to players although a university official said he was unaware how many actually took advantage of the opportunity. Five players told The Associated Press they had not sought counseling.
Athletic director Rick Greenspan hopes it wasn't because they were trying to uphold the rough-and-tough image that define football players.
``I think most young people have this sort of Superman belief, that they're sort of invincible and that's great,'' Greenspan said. ``But grieving and death are issues everybody deals with differently, and I've found over the years that there's not a perfect answer.''
Greenspan has also asked coaches and administrators to make more frequent trips to the football offices and hopes renovations at Memorial Stadium and inside the locker room illustrate campus support for the team.
Receiver James Hardy has put Hoeppner's picture in his locker, spoken with Hoeppner's wife and relied on his religious faith.
``I try to stay busy when I'm free because otherwise you think about it all the time,'' Hardy said. ``I've talked with Jane about her experiences and what we're both going through. It's real painful.''
For Lewis, the mourning has been even tougher. Initially, he was in such denial he couldn't even tell his parents Hoeppner died. He left that task to assistant coach Matt Canada. Then, while in Bloomington for Hoeppner's services, he got the call about his high school coach.
``Right after coach Hep's funeral, I wanted to just go home and get away from it for a little while and then I was right back in the same situation,'' he said.
A call from Hardy changed everything. He invited Lewis to join him at Disney World, and Lewis now credits that trip for helping him through the worst of it.
Some believe Hoeppner's death has brought the team closer. Lewis and Hardy now have a much stronger bond than they did a year ago when Lewis started the season as the No. 3 quarterback.
But that doesn't always work.
A year ago, Northwestern coach Randy Walker, Hoeppner's predecessor at Miami (Ohio), died of a heart attack in July. The Wildcats promised an inspirational season but the result was a 4-8 record.
Indiana expects to do better than that and hopes to honor the coach that instilled confidence and excitement into a program that lacked both for most of the last decade.
It won't be easy.
``I think it's still tough to accept for a bunch of guys,'' offensive lineman Charlie Emerson said. ``Not seeing him go into that office, not talking to him, it's just tough.''
Especially for Lewis, who got a double dose of life's toughest lessons.
``I'm good now; I'm ready to go and I feel a lot better,'' Lewis said. ``I just want to play the way coach Hep wanted us to play.''

Recent NCAAF Discussions

4th Quarter Covers - Week 8 on Tue, Oct 2016 by Blade
Carolina Wise Guy NFL Picks 10/23 on Tue, Oct 2016 by TtomBoBadly
Football Newsletters Week 9 on Tue, Oct 2016 by Blade
CFL Betting News and Notes Week 19 on Tue, Oct 2016 by Blade

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail Navy vs. South Florida Pick Will No. 22 Navy have another high-scoring contest when it hits the road to face South Florida on Friday at 7PM...
Thumbnail California vs. USC Pick Will the USC Trojans and Cal Golden Bears have another Pac-12 shootout when the two meet up this Thursday night at...
Thumbnail College Football Playoff Odds Following a surprising loss this past weekend, has Ohio State had their chances to win the College Football Playoffs take a...
Thumbnail College Football Week 9 Odds The College Football Season is approaching Week 9 and oddsmakers have released the opening odds. Here’s a closer look.
Thumbnail Sun Devils aim to protect house vs. Cougs Arizona State has won six in a row at Sun Devil Stadium over Washington State. But will that streak come to an end this evening?
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages