Indiana Coach Terry Hoeppner thought the quarterback position was going to be a strength for Indiana Hoosiers. With four quarterbacks on the roster during spring ball, Hoeppner expected a lot competition during the fall. Instead he got two transfers and not enough quarterbacks to fill the depth chart.
The void has seemingly been plugged with the late addition of scrambling quarterback Kellen Lewis from Jacksonville (Fla.) Mandarin High School. The 6'3", 185-pound Lewis garnered Florida Class 6A District Two Player of the Year honors last season as he accounted for more than 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns.
"It was pretty much a mutual agreement that they needed a quarterback and I want to be a quarterback," said Lewis. "I have no disillusions that I'm walking into a starting job. They need me on the roster and I'm going in to show them the level I can play at and make the entire team better. I don't think I'm going to win the team over signing in July. I'm going to come in and contribute to the team and provide competition at the quarterback spot."
Lewis turned down offers from Florida, NC State, Oklahoma State and Illinois early on because they considered him an athlete and not a quarterback. He instead chose the prep school route and planned to attend Hargrave Military Academy to pursue his dream of being a Division I quarterback.
"I guess you could call it a childhood dream," said Lewis. "I could have played running back or wide receiver, but I wanted to be a quarterback. Whenever a coach made the decision, they would say I had the athleticism to play wherever the team needed me. When I got to make the decision, I wanted to play quarterback.
"It was getting a little disappointing. I wasn't exactly looking forward to going to prep school. I was going to do whatever I had to do to make my dream a reality."
While Indiana had recruited Lewis early on, the coaching staff again preached to him the opportunity to come in as an athlete and try out different positions.
"Early on, even Indiana said we need athletes and not quarterbacks," said Lewis. "Everyone told me to be an athlete or not get recruited. That really hurt my recruiting because I wanted to be a signal caller more than anything."
Indiana kept Lewis as a target as an athlete until the departures of quarterbacks Mike Vlahogeorge and Grant Gregory this spring. When the sudden need for a quarterback arose with little time left in the recruiting season, Indiana went back to Lewis and Lewis in turn jumped at the offer.
"When I took a visit they told me they had a limited amount of time and they appreciated if I could sign while I was at IU," said Lewis. "I went up there and I wouldn't call it a love story, but I didn't feel out of place at Indiana, either. I didn't fall in love with the campus like they said I would, but at the same time I could see myself there and it was a perfect opportunity for everyone."
One thing Lewis did fall in love was the spread offense. In high school, Lewis felt his talents were limited and he was forced to run the ball too much, a problem he does not see at Indiana.
"The spread offense is what intrigues me about IU," said Lewis. "My senior year didn't exactly cater to my abilities. Yeah, I got the chance to run the ball, but I didn't get to showcase my throwing ability. I ran an offense with two wide receivers and two tight ends. The tight ends were both athletic guys, but four wides is a lot different. I know I'll be able to show what I can do passing the ball at IU."
At Indiana Lewis will be able to keep many options open for himself. While prep school made his professional dreams a long shot, at Indiana he can keep his dreams alive of following in his father's footsteps to the NFL. His father, Kiser Lewis, played college football at Florida A&M before stints with the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
"I'm really excited," said Lewis. "I was looking at Hargrave to be a stepping stone to Division I and now I'm at that level already. That's a step I don't have to take. I'm excited and relieved at the same time.
"I definitely want to play professional football. Division I is Division I no matter where you're playing and scouts are going to come and watch. I understand that you have to prove a lot to play in the NFL and at the same time I'm not an idiot, I can make a living using my brain, also."
Lewis is also keeping open the option to run track as another avenue to show off his athletic abilities.
"I might run track in the future," said Lewis. "My freshman year I'm going to focus on what they brought me to IU for and that's to play football and go to school. I'm going to keep my options open for other sports, but at 6-1, my basketball dreams are kind of shot."
Lewis To Pursue QB Dream at IU
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