JUCO Cornerback Commits to CMU

The 2004 Central Michigan University football recruiting class has added another key player. He is a cornerback with great size and speed who prepped at one of the top programs in Ohio before playing the past two seasons on a record-setting junior college defense.

Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in Virginia, Minn., finished the 2003 season with a 10-1 record and the highest-rated defense in the nation, thanks in large part to cornerback Mark Lewis.

Given his great size, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, and outstanding speed, 4.45 in the 40-yard dash, it's not surprising that Lewis would be an impact player for the Norsemen.

"He's a pure, natural athlete," Mesabi Range interim head coach Jeff Weisner said. "He's a true cover corner."

Lewis had offers to play for Central Michigan and Akron, but after visiting CMU Feb. 20, he canceled a visit to Akron and committed to play for the Chippewas this past Saturday.

"I called (CMU defensive backs) coach (Tony) Oden Saturday and told him I'm going to be a Chippewa and he said, 'Welcome to the family,'" Lewis said. "I want to play for (CMU) coach (Brian) Kelly because he's a winner and he's won championships."

Weisner is happy for Lewis, but was surprised that CMU beat out Akron for him.

"Central Michigan must have done a great job recruiting him," Weisner said. "I thought Mark would be a lock for Akron seeing as it's close to his Cleveland home and the Zips already have three Glenville players on their roster."

Lewis prepped at Cleveland Glenville High School, one of the top programs in Ohio, before arriving at Mesabi Range two years ago. Weisner, also an Ohio native from the Toledo area, recruited him for the Norsemen.

"Mark didn't get the looks coming out of high school because he was surrounded by so many great players at Glenville," Weisner said.

This season the 14th-ranked Norsemen set a new National Junior College Athletic Association record for total defense, allowing just 66.4 yards per game. That breaks down to 8.1 rushing yards allowed per game and 58.3 yards per game passing. The Norse defense had 24 interceptions, four of them by Lewis.

"He was close to being offered by some Big Ten schools but they felt he didn't have the best year statistically, which I believe is the result of our overall team defense," Weisner said. "Central Michigan began recruiting Mark in February the week of national signing day."

Including the four interceptions for 32 yards, Lewis was credited with 16 tackles (four solos), eight pass deflections and one quarterback hit this season. Given his great size and speed, Lewis could compete for a starting cornerback position immediately for the Chippewas.

"I gotta get my feet wet at CMU before I can start talking about playing time," Lewis said. "Coach Oden told me to come in and do what I've got to do. I just play and whatever happens gameday, happens."

Lewis cannot sign his letter-of-intent with CMU until the first week in April. He becomes the 18th player in the Chippewas 2004 recruiting class. Central Michigan still has two scholarships remaining to offer and could use one or both for additional help along the defensive line.

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