What's the similarity between Billy Graham and Brad Lewis?
They're the only people who can make 50,000 people scream "Jesus Christ" at the same time. Lewis is the redheaded stepchild. It's unfortunate and unfair.
Nobody says anything positive when he rips apart defenses, not just with his athletic skills and ability but with his head. Instead we act like it's a surprise, like it came out of nowhere.
It's true; Lewis reads defenses every bit as well as Marc Bulger or Major Harris or Jake Kelchner. He shattered nearly all the strength and conditioning records. His is the fastest quarterback 40-time in the school 's history and the best bench press. Name another signal caller to lead WVU to a bowl win – and a shellacking one at that – in the last 17 years. It's impossible, because there are none.
He completed all seven of his throws in the first 30 minutes against the ninth-best pass defense in the nation in Mississippi.
He tossed for 216 yards and four touchdowns and led the Mountaineers to a score every time they touched the ball. He read the Rebel defense like a book and split it like a sweet country tomato.
Simply put, WVU rewrote the Music City Bowl record books on the strength of Lewis' arm and touch.
He has proven himself time and again to be a solid passer, an above average runner. He does not make mistakes.
But everyone writes him off.
He's not the quick-triggered Bulger.He doesn't have the flair of Maj or the hair of the Snake..And maybe that's why fans don't like him. Perhaps he just needs an angle, something dramatic. Maybe we would like him more if he had quirks, some stupid personal things that matter little on the field.
Truth is, it is we who have erred.
What we should admire him for is his work ethic. He's more the All-American kid than any of the others. Out of Shadyside(Ohio) High he was not expected to win the starting job at West Virginia, let alone lead a 1999 comeback – as a sophomore – over Virginia Tech when Bulger went down with an injury.
But there was Lewis,heading a two-touchdown rally to put WVU ahead 20-19 over the undefeated Hokies. There was Lewis, against Syracuse in '98, leading an 80-yard march that would have pulled his team within 17-14 – in the Carrier Dome – had Avon Cobourne not fumbled at the goal line.
It was Lewis who made all the right moves, all the right passes, creating a couple on his own through pocket movement and pump fakes.
But in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, that does not matter. So take look at what he has done of late. Against Kent State,he was 27 of 34 for 286 yards and two touchdowns. An eight-yard touchdown run to seal the game. Another where he bowled over a defender.
He has the grit, the drive. Punch him in the mouth, and he grins. Knock him down,as Kent State did early and see how many times he gets up. Always.
There is no single factor a better indicator of a leader than what his followers say:
Receiver A.J.Nastasi said,"Brad is excellent.He puts the ball on the money. He threw a lot of passes,and all were smart reads. He puts the ball where it should go.
"The incomplete passes are always blamed on him, but that's not always the case. He is a gutsy guy,a competitor,and he will play well. You know when he puts on his helmet he is going after it. I know when I look back there it will be Brad. He is not losing that job. He is a calm quarterback. Nothing rattles him,and that's what's great. He took a good hit today in the third quarter. But this guy gets up and fights you. He does not need to do anything different, but keep doing what he is doing. He makes the right reads and throws."
Cornerback Brian King added,"Brad is confident regardless if we are down by 30 or up by 30.We know he will scrap and fight to the end. He gives us leadership, and everybody looks to him. I saw him lower a shoulder and run somebody over. There are not too many quarterbacks that are going to do that. He is tough. It's sad this is his senior year."
Linebacker Kyle Kayden stated,"He plays well.He has speed, and he showed a little of it on the eight-yard touchdown run.
"He throws it right there. He is developing in this offense. It is taking time,like everyone, but he is developing. Before he was more of a drop back passer, but now he has learned to throw on the run."
Kayden,one of the most studious players, just made the best observation.
Imagine being hired for a job at one of the nation's top 35 businesses. You're an accountant. Your world is numbers, a steady diet of formulas and equations. Then the game just changes. There's a new boss. The company is reshuffled,and you are shoved into public relations department, being forced to mix words with flash.
And, when you struggle in your first couple tries, the media hounds you, wanting to give your job to someone else.
It's the exact same for Lewis. And it's damn time to quit.
Mountaineer fans have always liked their signal callers more Ford or Chevy than Mercedes or Rolls Royce. It's time to awaken and notice: Lewis is it.
I'll say this: if I could pick one player off the 2001 Mountaineers to start a team with,it would be Lewis. You can take Cobourne or Antonio Brown,Grant Wiley or Shawn Hackett. They are all solid.
But they do not make this team. Lewis,right now, does. He's obviously the best quarterback, both because he has the most experience and because,simply, he is the best thrower West Virginia has.
His teammates love him, and the coaches admire his blue collar, go-to-work attitude. They rally around him, knowing he has battled, long and hard, to earn this job.
In the process, he has earned our respect. Let's give it to him.
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