Penn State’s Evan Lewis Finds Role on Team
It’s been a long journey. One that has spanned five years and six position changes. Finally, in his senior season, Evan Lewis has found his role on the football team.
Lewis’ journey began during his senior season at Gettysburg high school. A standout athlete, Lewis was a three year starter at quarterback for the Warriors. During his senior season, the 5’9 174 pound Lewis, threw for 2,765 yards and 31 touchdowns — a performance good enough to garner interest from Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson. Lewis was initially recruited as a walk-on athlete, but it didn’t take long before he learned what his first position would be.
“When I came up here I spent time during the summer, my first summer, playing quarterback in seven-on-seven and that type of stuff,” said Lewis.
However, that wouldn’t last long. During fall training camp, Lewis was moved over to cornerback on the defensive side of the ball. Lewis spent two years at cornerback covering wide receivers like Jordan Norwood and all-time receptions leader Deon Butler. In his second season on defense Lewis was utilized in the kicking game as a punter.
At the start of his third season with the Lions, he would change positions again. This time the coaching staff felt he could help the team better back on offense as a receiver. At receiver he would see his first game action of his career against Youngstown State and Kent State early on in the season. Lewis also proved vital on the scout team. His portrayal of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson helped the Nittany Lions defense limit him to 11-of-23 passing in a 41-31 victory of the Wolverines.
However, despite finding his niche on the team, his position was changed once again, which started to take its toll on Lewis.
“It was hard to really concentrate on one position, especially when you’re playing at this type of level,” said Lewis. “Everyone is good. From the first guy on the depth chart all the way down to the fourth or fifth guy, everyone can play. I always had to not spend as much time as I wanted on certain things because I would have to go and do other stuff.”
This time he was called upon to compete for the starting kicking spot, which he would win in fall training camp during his redshirt junior year. Lewis experienced some success at kicker, converting a 43-yard field goal against Alabama and going 6-of-7 on PAT attempts. His struggles with converting field goals later in the season led to him being replaced, and played a part in his decision to leave the team and graduate.
“The fall was a really tough time for me mentally to handle everything that happened. Losing the starting position was pretty tough and after the season I wasn’t having fun with football,” Lewis said.
But with one season of eligibility left Lewis couldn’t stay away from the game for long. Lewis approached Coach O’Brien at the end of the spring semester looking for one more shot.
“I always, for some reason had the idea in my head that I did want to play again. I started looking at school and where I wanted to play,” Lewis said. ” I wanted to again play at the highest level so I met with Coach O’Brien and a couple of weeks later he had let me come back on the team.”
Lewis would miss spring practices while student teaching at Juniata Valley, but eventually rejoined the team at the start of summer workouts. Finally getting to focus on one position, Lewis rapidly excelled in workouts. His conditioning and speed left many teammates impressed during seven-on-seven sessions.
His work ethic also left a positive impression. After grueling lifting sessions Lewis would spent almost two hours perfecting his craft with a handful of other receivers catching football and tennis balls from a pitching machine. He also worked on his route running with quarterback Shane McGregor.
Once camp started, he finally had his chance to impress the new coaches. Due to NCAA rules, coaches are prohibited from offseason workouts. During camp Lewis did not disappoint, quickly shooting up the depth chart. Now Lewis is listed as a co-starter with Redshirt Sophomore Alex Kenney and is expected to see some time on special teams, but this time returning kicks instead of making them.
“The guys joke around about me kicking again, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Lewis.
Despite not playing a down yet this season, Lewis’ decision to return is already something he won’t regret. On Monday his hard work was rewarded with a scholarship.
“I put a lot of hard work into getting to where I am. That was one of my goals, to get a scholarship and it happened,” said Lewis. “All those times of extra hours after practice, before practice and just thinking about doing the right thing all the time, it really pays off in the end.”