Bloomington, Ind. – IU redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis is a lot of the things.
The 6-1, 177-pounder is explosive and athletic, a blossoming prospect who continues to develop under the tutelage of IU passing game coordinator Matt Canada. He can make plays with his arm in IU's wide-open attack, or with his feet either by design or when something breaks down.
"He's special," says Canada.
That's all good, but there's one label that Lewis has come to enjoy the most.
For a player who initially didn't get a scholarship offer to play quarterback out of high school, that label – and the opportunity Indiana finally gave him last summer – is his favorite of them all.
Entering his senior season at Jacksonville's Mandarin H.S., Lewis was receiving some interest from Division I schools to play under center at the next level. But during his final prep campaign an overhaul of the team's offense resulted in less opportunities to throw, a dip in his offensive production, and a change of heart of college coaches who had been in pursuit.
Instead of targeting him as a quarterback, programs began talking about him as an athlete, suggesting he might wind up at cornerback or possibly wide receiver, but probably not at the helm of a college offense.
"Schools were saying if we look at you as an athlete, you'll be higher on our chart than at quarterback," Lewis said. "They didn't say I couldn't try quarterback, but they said they didn't need one. So that was frustrating to hear."
Lewis' frustration reached its peak on February's signing day, when he sat idly by while the other top preps from around the country signed letters of intent.
"Everyone was expecting me to sign somewhere, so it was rough to not have any offers to play quarterback," Lewis said.
That eventually changed last summer, when Indiana extended a scholarship offer, and more importantly, an opportunity to play quarterback. With his only other option being a year at prep school, Lewis jumped at the chance to play in the Big Ten.
He's now been with the IU program for more than a year, and he's getting more comfortable on the field everyday.
"Last year I came in, they handed me the playbook, and bam, we're in camp," Lewis said. "It's been a lot easier this year because I've had time to study defenses on film and I've gotten a lot more comfortable with what we're doing."
That results have been evident on the practice field. While splitting time with Graeme McFarland on the No. 2 offense, Lewis has shown he has the arm to make all the throws. He adds to that the speed and elusiveness to make plays with his feet, either by design or by improvisation.
"I'm really fired up about Kellen Lewis," Canada said. "He runs around and makes plays. He's becoming a better quarterback everyday.
"He's learning how to put the ball in the right spot and he's exciting and explosive, but he's a quarterback. He's not an athlete who plays quarterback, he's a quarterback who's an athlete. His future is really bright."
Lewis Loves the Label
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