In football, second chances often turn into third and fourth chances before an ugly ending.
For Arizona State junior offensive lineman Jamil Douglas, a second chance now appears to be the beginning of a great Sun Devil career.
Midway through the 2010 season, Douglas was arrested on a second-degree burglary charge on suspicion of stealing from teammate Alex Garoutte, and was subsequently suspended by head coach Dennis Erickson. Even after the charges were reduced, Douglas faced a long road to redemption. It was a messy situation that would have derailed many other players.
But not Douglas.
He worked diligently to regain the respect of the players and coaching staff, and saw action in every game during the 2011 season. Douglas then took the next step, both as a player and, more importantly, as a man, after the arrival of new head coach Todd Graham and his staff.
"They've helped me grow in the mental aspect," Douglas said. "They focus on things off the field as well as on the field, to make sure we are winning every day, in the classroom or wherever we are. I've just matured as a man and learned to learn from my mistakes. I've grown into a better person since he's been here."
Back on track, Douglas wasted no time in showing off his immense talent. He seized the starting left guard job during the offseason and didn't look back.
Starting all 13 games for the Sun Devils in 2012, Douglas was a critical element in a revitalized offensive line that surprised many last fall. Being one of three new starters, Douglas and rest of the line helped pave the way for 2,670 yards on the ground, the most the program has seen since 1996.
Looking back on his success from last fall, Douglas feels he did a good job but still has a lot of work to do.
"I think I did pretty well, considering it was my first year starting," Douglas said. "I have to always be focused. I have to keep my mental part of the game right. I have to get smarter on the field, learn different techniques, what guys are trying to do to me, and things like that."
An improved mental game added to Douglas' physical tools is certainly atop opposing Pac-12 defensive linemen's wish lists. Over the offseason, Douglas has thrived in the ASU strength and conditioning program, and has bulked up from his 284-pound playing weight last season to a stout 303 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame. While those are impressive numbers, it's Douglas' athleticism that has him on the verge of stardom. A part-time tight end in high school, Douglas has great quickness off the snap, and is a very aggressive blocker in the trenches.
Heading into the 2013 season, both Douglas and the Sun Devils believe that they are on the brink of great things.
"I think this year I have a chance to take my game to the next level," Douglas said. "This year I have no excuse. I have to lead and look like one of the veterans."
Douglas' ability has given the Sun Devil coaching staff an interesting problem to solve during the early parts of spring practice. With right tackle Brice Schwab graduating, should Douglas remain at left guard or swing out to tackle, where many project him to be the best fit? Either way, Douglas is playing the good soldier for the betterment of the team.
"It's been pretty much what the coaches have been telling me. They want to see what I can do at right tackle. If that's what's in their gameplan, I'm ready for it."
Douglas opened spring practice at right tackle, but during Sunday's practice, shifted back inside to left guard, with Sil Ajawara moving to right tackle. But moving forward, does Douglas have a preference?
"I don't. I spent the first three days at right tackle, and they moved me back to left guard today just to try things out. I like both of them. I like right tackle a lot, but left guard is where I got comfortable last year. I'll play wherever they want me to play."
One change from last year is the man making those decisions. ASU parted ways with last season's offensive line coach, Bob Connelly, and has replaced him with Chris Thomsen. Although their time together has been relatively brief, Douglas is already learning valuable lessons from his new coach.
"Coach Thomsen brings a lot," said Douglas. "He's teaching me a lot of new techniques that will slow defensive linemen down to take away their first move and also take away their second move."
With four of the spring's 15 practices now in the books, one of the team's primary goals throughout the remainder of the time will be to establish a starting offensive line. With no offensive line recruits in the 2013 class joining the team over the summer, all of the potential pieces are currently in camp. Figuring out the "who" and the "where" quickly will be paramount in helping to build the chemistry that is essential for any effective offensive line.
"It's very important. Just leading into fall camp, we want to have a set group that we can all become accustomed to each other and be able to have that relationship on the field. That way, we can know what each other is thinking. As far as an offensive line, we have to all think as a group, it's very important to get that set group before the spring is over."
His work during the spring may seem doubly taxing, given the multiple positions, but Douglas believes that if he steps off the practice field a better player than he was walking onto it, things will work out.
"I just want to get better every day. I'm working on two positions right now, so if I can master right tackle as well as mastering left guard, then I'll be happy. I just want to step on the field and be confident in wherever they are going to play me."
Given his career trajectory, it's easy to envision a convergence of Douglas' confidence, talent, and opportunity to become the next star on the Sun Devil offensive line. While Douglas does have such lofty hopes, his ultimate goal remains the most critical of all—team success.
"Of course, I want to be an All-Pac-12, All-American type guy, and an Academic All-American, but I just want us to be successful as a team, as an offensive line and do some good things on the field this year."