- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Google “Jamil Douglas.”
You’ll see assorted stories about the Arizona State offensive line taking shape, a piece on Douglas growing into a leadership role, and even a story on why Douglas is “a freak” athlete. Put it all together and it tells the tale of a talented collegiate lineman with a bright NFL future.
Now, Google “Jamil Douglas Xbox,” “Jamil Douglas laptop,” or “Jamil Douglas arrested.”
The Internet spits out a different narrative. Those stories are from 2010, when a couple of stupid freshmen made a stupid mistake. Douglas and former teammate Lee Adams were caught on video stealing an Xbox and laptops from another player’s dorm room. Per some of the comments from those stories, public reaction was expectedly harsh.
“Kick them off the team," and “They should go to jail," were just a couple examples.
Douglas, who played a lesser role in the crime, was suspended while Adams was dismissed from the team by then-coach Dennis Erickson.
There was community service for Douglas after a reduced sentence, but no jail time. It was a hard road back to earning his spot on the team and the trust of his teammates.
Four years later, Douglas already has his degree in criminal justice, and he’ll have a master’s in liberal studies by the end of the 2014 season. He’s been honored as a Pac-12 All-Academic performer, a second-team all-conference player, and next month, he’ll be representing Arizona State as the face of the program at the league’s media day in Los Angeles.
“Being young and being out on my own for the first time, it was a dumb mistake I made,” Douglas said. “That being said, if you don’t learn from your mistakes and make good from them, what’s the point? I’ve learned a tremendous amount from it, and I’ve used it to turn around my career. I’ve used it as fuel to do better and to be a better person and I’m blessed that this coaching staff gave me a shot to prove myself to them.”
If ever there was a poster boy for second chances and redemption, it’s Douglas.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” said head coach Todd Graham on his decision to bring Douglas to media day. “He’s one of the most respected players in our program. I told him when I came in that things happen and it’s the adversities that define who you are and your character. It’s what you do moving forward that counts. And he’s done everything we’ve asked and more. He’s one of the best young men I’ve ever coached.”
Having started 27 consecutive games, Douglas is making the move from left guard to left tackle where he’ll be asked to protect the blindside of quarterback Taylor Kelly. Don’t think for a second that this is a smooth transition that requires minimal effort on the part of the 6-4, 302-pound Douglas. He’ll have to prove himself all over again.
“At guard, everything is right in front of you; there is a D-tackle lined up in front of you, and it’s you and him,” Douglas explained. “At tackle, there is a lot more to see on the field. You have a speed rusher who is probably a freakish athlete. There are corners coming off the edge. It’s a big transition. But I feel like I’m getting the hang of it.”
Douglas thinks he’s got a pretty good shot at an NFL gig next season at guard or tackle. His coaches think so too. If that doesn’t work out -- or if it does and when it’s over -- he’d like to work with inner-city children as either a counselor or probation officer. He feels like he’s got some things to say about growing from mistakes. Especially since in the .com era, his skeletons are already online for all to see.
“Most people know. And if they don’t, I’ll tell them,” Douglas said. “I was young. I made mistakes like everyone else has. Mine were just more scrutinized. But I won’t run from them. I think it takes a big person to come back from something like that and be in the position I’m in now.”
Graham agrees. That’s why he wants Douglas to be the face of his program.
“When you look at his character, his work ethic and his leadership, for me it was no question,” Graham said.
Naturally, Douglas is proud of what he’s been able to do on the field. But it’s his work in the classroom that makes him puff out his barrel chest just a little more. For him, performing at an all-academic level was an important step toward showing his coaches and teammates that he was serious about rehabilitating his image.
“I set a goal to graduate a year early and I was able to do that with my criminal justice degree,” Douglas said. “Soon I’ll have my master’s. I wanted to make sure that I was serious about doing the things that a student-athlete is supposed to do in order to be successful.”
He’s also very open with the younger players about his mistakes so they aren’t replicated.
“I didn’t have someone to take me under their wing and show me how things go,” he said. “That’s not an excuse. But with these younger guys, I make it a point to teach them the right way to go about things.
“We can all learn from our mistakes.”