No quit in Treston Decoud

Treston Decoud makes his return this year for the Beavers after suffering a major concussion last season.

Treston Decoud was messed up bad. He just didn’t know it.

The Beavers were in the midst of last year’s 2-10 season, when he was in his first year with his fourth school. Things finally had seemed to settle down for Decoud, who had earned the Division-I starting cornerback spot he wanted for so long.

Then the Colorado game happened on Oct. 24, 2015.

Decoud went sprawling on a tackle in the second quarter, inadvertently slamming into fellow cornerback Dwayne Williams. He blacked out, remained unconscious for about six minutes and was rushed to the hospital.

He was able to return to the locker room before the game ended, but the problems had only just started for Decoud. Even with the help of fellow defensive back Devin Chappell, Decoud was barely able to walk back to his apartment that night.

“With that concussion, that was a bad week,” Decoud said. “Thank God for Devin Chappell. He had me. If he hadn’t helped me, I don’t know if I would be still here. That concussion was bad for me. I still think about that.”

The following day, Decoud went to practice. He put on some tennis shoes and a hat, knowing he wouldn’t be allowed to play yet.

The problem was, the Beavers weren’t practicing the Sunday after a game. Decoud had showed up all by himself, too fuzzy to realize what was going on.

“When I really realized it was when I stepped on the field and nobody was here,” Decoud said. “No coaches, no trainers, no nothing. And then I started thinking, ‘Dang, why is nobody here?’ And then I finally was like, ‘Oh, I did just get knocked out yesterday.’”

It didn’t stop there. Soon after, he saw assistant coach Mitch Singler and didn’t even recognize him. Singler had to tell him about the encounter later, which Decoud had no memory of. Then, he walked to his Tuesday class on Monday and didn’t realize it was the wrong day.

“I was sitting there for 10 or 20 minutes,” Decoud said. “I was like, ‘Well, I guess she ain’t coming to class.’ It was a bad week. I’m glad that’s over with.”

Decoud acknowledges he may not have gotten through it without Chappell, who still remembers Decoud’s injury and its aftermath vividly.

“I remember being on the field,” Chappell said. “I thought I was going to start crying. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know if he was going to ever be able to play football again. That was my roommate. We stay up late talking about dreams and things like that, so to see my dog laying down with his feet not moving, I was terrified. I was thinking about that the whole game.”

Chappell walked Decoud home—the two room together on road trips but Decoud lives alone in Corvallis—and made sure Decoud was taken care of.

“I remember walking him home, him leaning on me and I’m carrying him on my shoulder,” Chappell said. “People were trying to talk to him and I’m like, ‘Get away, get away.’ I didn’t tuck him in or nothing, but I took him home and made sure he was okay. I was calling him throughout the next couple days, letting him know if he needed anything that I’d be there for him. I was just trying to be someone he could lean on if he needed anything.”

Chappell’s efforts helped, but Decoud was still struggling. He couldn’t leave his apartment, nor could watch film of his games. He was barely functioning, yet aware enough to realize the pain he was in.

“It was a blurry time in my life,” Decoud said. “It was like my head was in a whole different place. It was scary. I swear to God it was scary. I used to cry every night because my head was hurting. I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t do nothing. Any light or noise made my head hurt. It was a bad two weeks.”

Thoughts about quitting football crept in. The Covington, LA. native insists he never was that close to making the decision to walk away from football, but he considered it. He was tired of feeling hurt, tired of losing games, tired of seeing his family back home knowing he was struggling through the season.

“In my mind, I didn’t want to quit football, but I was second guessing it,” Decoud said. “It was just something in my head like, ‘Is this really what I want?’ But this is what I want. I love this game. I’d die for it.”

Things didn’t flip automatically, but Decoud gradually got better. After two or three weeks of rest, he got back to about 100 percent. The fuzziness cleared, and Decoud was mostly back to normal. He missed two games but came back for the last three, recording 23 tackles with a sack—his highest totals in any three-game stretch.

Again, much of the credit goes to Chappell.

“We have similar stories and similar pasts,” Chappell said. “I just always told him, ‘make sure you make the right decisions for yourself. Take care of your family. Your momma’s got to eat, too.’ Just remind him about the things that are really important, remind him of the big picture. For us, it’s not just about us. We’ve got families. I always remind him, ‘Hey, we’re not doing this just for us.’”

Chappell started at Western Oregon, transferring to OSU in 2014 as a walk-on. For being a team captain now, he doesn’t have the most glorious of backstories. Neither does Decoud.

He earned some Division-I interest while at Lakeshore High School in Louisiana, but academic problems halted that dream. He detoured to Division-II Chadron State in Nebraska, redshirted in 2012 and made just four tackles in 2013.

When his mother, Chandrika, was diagnosed with lung cancer, he knew he had to move closer to home. He transferred to Nicholls State, earned a starting spot there before learning the NCAA denied his request to play immediately after transferring. He went to Northwest Mississippi Community College, nabbing six interceptions and earning the title of No. 4 ranked Junior College cornerback in the nation. He had played well enough to earn a ticket to a Division-I school.

Best of all, his mother made a full recovery. Now, she’s “100 percent” healthy. Decoud talks with his mom and dad every day on FaceTime. It keeps him connected to Louisiana, but he’s glad he’s not there anymore.

“You never know when this game is going to be over,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to the (NFL). I hope I will. I got dreams, but you never know. Today could be my last practice. Overcoming those obstacles helped me become a better person and better man.”

“That’s the test of Treston: he’s upbeat and he’s very positive, but you have doubts,” added cornerbacks coach Cory Hall on Decoud’s adversities. “You have to understand, we all have those doubts. Those are never going to go away. It’s about how you defeat the mental monster and how you bounce back. I think Treston has done a good job of that.”

Now, Decoud is more than just healthy. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder has dominated opposing wide receivers so far this season. The quarterback rating on passes thrown his direction (7.4) is the lowest of all Pac-12 cornerbacks through week four. He had two interceptions in the Idaho State game, including a 75-yard touchdown return. He was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and ended OSU’s 22-game streak without a cornerback recording a pick.

“Football is his everything, and that shows in both the highs and lows of the game,” said coach Hall. “He wears it on his sleeve, and players feed off that either way. His leadership has been paramount.”

“I’m ecstatic for him,” Chappell added after the Idaho State game. “He set the bar high for himself. I told him right after that: ‘I expect nothing less.’ I know he expects nothing less for me. So I told him: ‘Don’t get too comfortable, because I’m coming for you.’ We always have a lot of friendly competition.”

With Decoud in a much better spot than he was one year ago, he can look to the future. He’s still focused on his senior year at OSU, but he also realizes that his current successes are opening the door for future possibilities.

“What motivates me is when I come to practice and see an NFL coach watching,” Decoud said. “Or I’m watching TV and I see somebody get a huge contract. That motivates me because I want to be in that position where I can feed my family for a lifetime. My number one goal is to help my family out.”

And of course, that future will include Chappell. The pair’s friendship is more than just about about the lows. Now that both are starters in the defensive backfield and healthy, they too can focus on the difficulties of what they’ve been through and the good that’s come out of it.

“I consider him like a brother,” Chappell said. “I didn’t always relate to everybody else because we have a lot of different stories. When he came in, we clicked up pretty quick. We hang out on the weekends. We go out and have fun. That’s my boy and I care for him. I firmly believe our friendship will continue long after college.”

“I used to dream of playing D-I,” added Decoud. “I used to dream of running out of the tunnel and the big time crowd. Me and my homeboys talk about that now. Just to have that actually happen, it’s like a movie to me. I really feel like I’m playing a role in a movie. I love that role.”