"Personally, I look forward to coming in every day," sophomore cornerback Antonio Lewis said. "I just love being around it. I just have to be here. I get excited for everything – skelly, coming here to work out, all of it. It's all exciting to me."
For most players, "skelly" (short for skeleton – passing drills that pit the receivers, backs and quarterbacks against linebackers and defensive backs) is a welcome break from the grueling workout sessions. Conducted on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the passing game drills are a substitute for the real games played in the fall – something to look forward to that gets them through the Barwis program. Not so for Lewis, however, who views every moment in the Puskar Center as a chance to improve.
Like most players, Lewis admits that this year's summer program is the toughest ever.
"I think it's the intensity," the Waldorf, Md. native said of the difference in the 2005 drills. "You have to step it up every year, and that's how programs get better. We just go where the coaches tell us. We're doing this as a team, and we are having fun and working at the same time."
While not many would describe summer workouts as "fun", it's somehow not odd to hear that word coming from Lewis. He views just about every situation with a positive attitude, and uses every stretch, lift and drill as an opportunity to improve himself.
While some of his teammates at cornerback might not be as enthusiastic about summer work as he is, Lewis believes that Anthony Mims, Dee McCann, Larry Williams and he have forged a bond that's special, even when compared to other tightly-knit units on the squad.
"I think we all feed off each other," Lewis said of the relationship between the quartet. "When one guy makes a play, that makes us all want to step up and do it. We use all that [as motivation] when we work out. We view ourselves as a corps – as a team. We all work together, and learn from each other, and even from previous players. And, of course from Coach Gibby."
Among the foursome, Mims and McCann are expected to be the starters, with Williams and Lewis backing them up. Situations such as this, where talented players are forced to sit at times, often cause friction. However, at cornerback this season, that doesn't appear to be the case. Gibson has said that both jobs are still open, and that Williams or Lewis could earn a starting job this fall. And even if they don't there will still be plenty of chances for all four to get on the field, as nickel and dime packages, as well as breathers for the starters, should allow the backups a number of snaps each game.
Putting aside those worries, Lewis said he and his teammates don't spend a lot of time thinking about who will play this fall.
"I don't think any of us worry about playing time. A lot of people may say that, but I really think our group means it," Lewis said. "Whoever starts, starts. We are just looking for ways to help the team. We are all thinking that, and we know the coaches will put us in the right situations to help the team win. The coaches have been coaching for years, and they know what to do. We just play."
One other option for Lewis is returning kicks. He ran back both punts and kickoffs in high school, and will compete for return duties this fall as well. Again, however, he's not hung up on being the starter, but instead concentrates on the team effort.
"Hopefully I'll be running back kicks, but I'm going to do whatever they ask me to do," Lewis repeated. "I did both in high school, but high school is high school. It's different here. I'm just going to do what I can do to help the team."
If the previous statement doesn't sum up Lewis' great attitude, his final comment certainly does. It shows great maturity from the sophomore, and could serve as a motto for anyone looking to motivate themselves to use each opportunity to improve – even if it comes under triple digit temperatures with a drill sergeant in your ear.
"Every practice you are learning," Lewis said with conviction. "You just have to pay attention and get better every chance you get."