Football: Former Eaglecrest star safety Xavier Lewis recovering from stroke

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Eaglecrest senior safety Xavier Lewis (14) pulls down a Denver East ballcarrier during the Raptors' season opener against the Angels on Sept. 1, 2012. Lewis, a three-time all-league first team selection, has given his verbal commitment to the University of Wyoming. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Former Eaglecrest safety Xavier Lewis (14) pulls down a Denver East ballcarrier during the Raptors’ season opener against the Angels on Sept. 1, 2012. Lewis, currently a sophomore safety at the University of Wyoming, is back in Colorado recovering from a mild stoke he suffered Wednesday night. (File photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Elijah Ross wasn’t sure he’d heard the message from his father right.

The senior point guard and quarterback heard his former Eaglecrest High School football teammate Xavier Lewis — just 19 years old — was in the hospital fighting to recover from a stroke.

But Ross had indeed heard correctly, as the University of Wyoming sophomore safety suffered from what has been termed a ‘mild stroke’ and had been rushed to the hospital by a teammate, later getting airlifted from a hospital in Laramie, Wyoming, to the critical care unit at Swedish Medical Center in Denver.

Besides the fact that somebody so young had suffered a stroke, it was shocking news to the entire Eaglecrest community as it involved Lewis, the 2012 Denver Post Gold Helmet Award winner and “one of the faces of Eaglecrest” over the past few years in the words of many.

“My dad called me in the early morning and said ‘Xavier Lewis had a stroke,'” Ross recalled Friday night. “I didn’t really know how to respond to that, I’d never heard of young people having a stroke like that. I texted him whenever he gets that message that I’m praying for him and hope he gets better.”

Thankfully, Lewis does appear to be getting better rapidly and had improved just a few hours after the stroke happened. Eaglecrest coach Mike Schmitt said that Lewis had no major blockage or discernable damage to the brain during his stroke, which quite possibly came as the result of dehydration mixed with physical exertion.

Schmitt and some of his staff visited the hospital about 9 a.m. Thursday morning and Lewis was already able to write his name. The budding mechanical engineer also wrote down the formula for velocity.

“They expect a full recovery from him,” Schmitt said. “He had a pretty intense day of therapy (on Friday) and he gets really tired and frustrated easily, but I know they are working with him. His dad (Quentin) is a coach and was a player, so he knows how to push him, but X doesn’t really need that. He’s a great football player, but it is his brain that makes him special.

“It wasn’t just his athletic prowess. X was one of the faces of Eaglecrest over the last five years and he was the face of what we stand for in academics and athletic excellence and quality. A 4.8 student and Gold Helmet Award winner don’t come around that often.”

Lewis’ brain was saved by the quick action of Lewis’ teammate, Eric Nzeocha, who recognized the signs quickly. According to a story by the Casper Star-Tribune’s Mike Vorel, Nzeocha noticed Lewis had trouble speaking and couldn’t write when asked, which prompted an immediate trip to the hospital. Early detection and treatment is paramount in diminishing the effects of a stroke.

Lewis finished the 2014 season as the No. 3 safety on the Wyoming depth chart. He played in 11 games for the Cowboys and recorded five solo tackles and four assists and has 27 tackles for his career. There’s been no talk about a future in football as of yet according to Schmitt.

After his stellar career at Eaglecrest, Lewis became the first Division I football player Schmitt had coached. He racked up double-digit tackles in five games as a senior in 2012 and led Eaglecrest with a total of 84 on the season — 75 of them solo — and was selected first team All-Centennial League. It was his third consecutive first team all-league accolade. The Raptors made the Class 5A state quarterfinals that season.

Lewis remains the physical standard by which Schmitt measures his football players every season with a combine-like test.

Off the field, Lewis was in the top five in Eaglecrest’s senior class and a Valedictorian candidate. His academic standing helped him draw further interest from programs such as Air Force, Duke, Stanford and a number of Ivy League schools which have stringent standards.

Schmitt firmly believes Lewis will recover and continue on a path of success in the future.

“He has the love and support of his family and the entire Eaglecrest community,” Schmitt said. “We all appreciate him and his sister and his family are going to be there to give him whatever support he needs. But X is going to do it on his own, like he always has. We’re just going to get to be around to watch him do it like we have over the past few years.”

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel