Panthers Land NJ Tailback

Last season, the Pitt Panthers offered a unknown running back from Wilmington named Chris Burns who looks like a steal. Today, the Panthers hope they have done the same with Blair Academy back Dion Lewis.

The backfield at Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy was crowded last year with three BCS running back prospects. Class of 2008 back Ed Imeokparia landed at Florida State. Angel Clybourn a talented fullback in the class of 2009 landed at Cincinnati and now Dion Lewis has landed at Pittsburgh. Not many wishbone schools can boast three BCS backs.

"I had 79 carries for 979 yards and 14 touchdowns last year," Lewis said. "We run the wishbone, so we all shared carries."

Lewis ended his recruitment early with an early afternoon pledge to the Pittsburgh Panthers.

"Yes, I have committed to Pitt," Lewis stated. "I have a great relationship with the coaches there. I call Jeff Hafley almost everyday just to talk and I am from Albany, N.Y., so I have known David Walker for a while.

"I really feel that Pitt is a program that is on the rise," he said. "I just want to be a part of that. When I went there I liked everything about it. The staff is great. The facilities are second to none." The 5-foot-7, 180-pound speed merchant is not worried about Heisman contender LeSean "Shady" McCoy either.

"He is a great back," Lewis said. "I hope he sticks around so I can learn from him. They have a bunch of good running backs there, so I'll have to compete."

Being slightly undersized forces Lewis to utilize it to his advantage.

"I think I have great vision and good speed," Lewis said. "The vision and the patience are what makes me the player I am. You have to wait until the whole developes and then hit it hard and burst through it."

Despite the early pledge, Lewis says he is done with recruiting.

"I'm sticking with Pitt," Lewis explained. "I haven't spoken with any other coaches since I decided to pick Pitt and I don't plan on it. Right now I just want to focus on my team and graduating early." Yes, Lewis does plan on graduating in December and enrolling early, so he can participate in spring practice.

"I plan on graduating in December," Lewis said. "I just have to make sure I can. I don't think there will be any problems with it.

"I think coming in early will help me get adjusted academically," Lewis continued. "There will be two months that I'll be on campus with very little football, so I can focus on academics and learning the campus and the city. It will definitely help me as a football player as well. I will have a head start over the other freshmen and I'll be able to learn the offense before most of them."

Lewis becomes the Panthers second known verbal commitment now joining Lakeview offensive tackle Cory King. Lewis chose the Panthers over offers from Tulane and Miami (Ohio). He was supposed to visit Cincinnati, but cancelled the trip.

"My parents wanted me to visit some other schools, but once I was at Pitt and they offered I knew that was where I wanted to be."

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