- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE | Jameel Sewell never entirely left the Virginia football program when he was forced to leave in 2008 after the school ruled him academically ineligible.

He continued to live with Antonio Appleby, Darren Childs and Vic Hall, teammates from his first three years in the program. And he would often bring up the Cavaliers’ ups and downs when he talked with fullback Rashawn Jackson.

Still he wasn’t a part of things, and the reminders of his place in athletic limbo were frequent.

“Every second every day of my life [when] I was gone, I thought about that because it was football season,” Sewell said Sunday at Virginia’s media day. “I thought ‘That’s supposed to be me out there with the guys’ or ‘I can do that’ or things like that. But there was nothing I could do. I made the decision and actions that put me in that situation, so there was nothing I could do but just wait.”

Until now.

Sewell is part of the Cavaliers’ three-way quarterback competition, along with Hall - a former cornerback - and junior Marc Verica. Coach Al Groh declined to evaluate how the three stack up after nine practices.

There’s little doubt, though, that Sewell values the opportunity he secured after working his way back into school.

“You have to think about it. One day you’re a 9-4 quarterback, and the next day you’re out of school,” Jackson said. “That’s a heartbreaking experience, and I feel that truly humbled him. He feels personally that he has a lot more to give and to show, not just to fans but himself.”

Sewell, though, still has to earn a place for himself - which won’t be easy.

Hall, Sewell and Verica each started at least once at the position, a stark contrast to Virginia’s precarious situation at the position a year ago.

The Cavaliers were coming off an appearance in the Gator Bowl, and Sewell started much of the previous two seasons. Yet he was declared academically ineligible in January 2008, leaving Virginia with one option with minimal experience (Peter Lalich) and two with none (Verica and Scott Deke) to take his place.

Lalich ultimately was dismissed from the team in September, and Verica mixed good days and bad after circumstances thrust him into a large role earlier than expected. The Cavaliers slumped to 5-7, and Sewell could only watch things unravel with frustration.

“It was just difficult because I feel like I started all that basically with what I did,” Sewell said. “I was kind of the cause of so much instability because I did start at quarterback for the team. I’m not saying it was all me, but I did start at quarterback.”

Those regrets spurred him through his yearlong absence from the team while also prompting him to reassess the value of some priorities. When he returned earlier this year, he met with Groh and acknowledged school wasn’t always a priority. However, he said graduating is now important to him after living a year without football, even if class work probably won’t ever be his favorite thing.

“I absolutely love football; I don’t absolutely love school,” said Sewell, who is 20 credits shy of earning a degree. “So it was easier for me to be lazy at something I don’t have a serious passion for. That’s just human nature for me. I know it sounds stupid. I cheated myself in the classroom. I will never cheat myself on the field because it’s more than just me out there.”

With a year of eligibility remaining, he knows his time is limited. Sewell owns 22 career starts, and he did throw for 2,176 yards and 12 touchdowns just two seasons ago.

Those accomplishments, though, probably wouldn’t mean as much as rebounding to cap his career with another star turn on a winning team.

“He has something to prove,” right tackle Will Barker said. “He knows that. I think he feels a little bit of responsibility to come out and take a leadership role and a prominent role in this offense.

“He came here on a mission. He’s definitely doing it.”

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