The fundamentals prepare you for everything, but Patrick Lewis never saw this one coming.
A four-year starting center at Texas A&M University, Lewis went up against all-comers during one-on-one drills during his time at College Station. He absorbed bull rushes and spin moves from defensive linemen willing to give their left arm to wiggle and weave their way past you for a win.
The process forged friendships. You grew to appreciate your opposing linemen like brothers, which is one of the reasons why Lewis respected Polo Manukainiu so much.
Manukainiu, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive lineman who decommitted from Oklahoma to join the Aggies after his official visit to College Station, spent a majority of his redshirt freshman year in 2012 going up against the likes of All-American tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews each day in practice.
As Lewis graduated to the NFL, he forecast big things for Manukainiu, which made the 19-year-old’s death in an automobile accident this past week all the more tragic.
“It was very startling,” said Lewis, now an undrafted rookie trying to make the Green Bay Packers’ roster. “It was one of those situations where you're like – not him. He was a really good person and you hate to see good people lose their lives and the way he did, unexpected and so early. It baffles you.”
The incident occurred on Monday evening near Cuba, N.M., when the driver of the vehicle reportedly over-corrected, resulting in a rollover and the death of three individuals, including Manukainiu and Utah freshman defensive tackle Gaius Vaenuku. Both individuals were ejected from the vehicle.
New Mexico State Police said alcohol wasn't a factor, although it appeared the driver was the only one in the car wearing a seat belt, according to ESPN.
The loss weighed on the mind of Lewis during the remaining week of practice. He took to Twitter immediately on Tuesday night with the first 13 characters of his tweet saying all that need be said: “Not Polo man.”
Meanwhile, Lewis is pushing ahead during during one-on-one drill work. According to Press-Gazette Media statistics, he's currently 9-5 against the team's defensive linemen.
The competition is difficult, opposing linemen are stronger and equipped with multiple moves to beat you, but like anything Lewis has his eye set on winning the next battle in front of him.
For the moment, that battle for everyone associated with Texas A&M lies with Manukainiu, whom Lewis remembers as a great person, well-liked among all the Aggie athletes regardless of sport and a football player whose ceiling was unlimited.
“Everybody is kind of grieving about it,” Lewis said. “There’s really not much we can do now but keep praying for his family and praying for the football team down at Texas A&M. They keep on keeping on, get it together for each other and be there for each other. That’s what we do. We Aggies mourn together. They’re going to have their own deal down there at College Station. They’re going to pretty much turn it into a celebration, so it ain’t so sad.”