Lewis tripping to UT in mid-July

Read as New Jersey linebacker catches up with InsideTennessee.com and new recruiting analyst Danny Parker. Be sure to visit InsideTennessee.com for all your recruiting information.

Given the success that his high school in Hammonton, N.J., has enjoyed, it's easy to see why tradition is of great importance in deciding on a university for Kaiwan Lewis.

After carrying home the NJSIAA Non-Public Groups I/II state championship under 26-year head coach Paul Sacco for the second straight year, Lewis not only wants to lead the St. Joseph Wildcats to a three-peat, but he also has a burning desire to stock the trophy case at his next stop.

"I'm looking at tradition because my high school team has a lot of tradition," said Lewis, who played on both sides of the ball in St. Joseph's 40-0 victory over St. Mary's last December. "They won 10 state championships in a row. I've got two state championships right now. I like tradition. I want to go to a winning program."

He also stressed academic support, noting that he wants to major in Criminology, and wants to enjoy college life from a social aspect.

The four-star prospect ranks No. 158 in the Scout 300 and is the fourth-ranked inside linebacker in the country. (Note: The inside backers ranked Nos. 1-3 are all committed, leaving him the top-ranked uncommitted player at his position.)

At 6-foot-2 and already weighing 225 pounds, Lewis is positioning himself physically to arrive on campus at the school of his choice ready to play Day One. He is currently benching 325 pounds and squatting 435.

He is a sure tackler, racking up 80 stops last season to go with 10 sacks. He also forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles, returned an interception for a touchdown and blocked a punt.

Given how bulking up the front seven of the defense for the Tennessee Volunteers is high on the to-do list with the Class of 2012, Lewis is fast becoming a recruiting priority.

He has been in touch with several coaches on the Tennessee coaching staff, including head coach Derek Dooley, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon.

"They're recruiting me as a Sam linebacker but I can move to the inside potentially as well," Lewis said.

Sirmon, who suited up for a seven-year NFL career after being an All-Pac 10 linebacker himself, has left an impression on Lewis.

"I have a great relationship with coach Sirmon," Lewis said. "I already knew he was going to be linebacker coach. The day he became linebacker coach (in February) I got the offer. We already knew each other. When he first started recruiting I was the first linebacker coach Sirmon came to see.

"That showed just how bad they wanted me. He came to see me in school and get my academic stuff and came to watch me work out."

Lewis said he later talked to Dooley on Skype and was re-assured of his scholarship offer. Checking out the UT campus and Knoxville is on the agenda.

"I'll be there in two weeks. That's going to be the first school I hit when I go on my southern swing," said Lewis, who is leaving his house somewhere between July 15-17.

"Tennessee is high. I definitely like them a lot, and I can't wait to get down there and check that out."

It's an 11-hour, 15-minute drive down from his hometown to Neyland Stadium. However, Lewis was adamant in saying that won't be a negative factor in considering the Volunteers or any other southern schools. "Not at all, not one bit," he said.

He went on to say the Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee are recruiting him the hardest. He also mentioned the efforts of UConn and Cincinnati.

After hitting to road to check out schools this summer, Lewis has firm plans of bringing home a third straight state crown to St. Joseph.

"I like (the chances), seems like they're pretty high," he said. "It's definitely winnable. It's all about hard work and how we gel together as a team and come in that weight room and this August we start practice."

His team opens up in Buena, N.J., on Sept. 9.

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